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The Scottish Prison Service works intensively with people in its care to reduce the chances of their returning to custody after their release by seeking to help individuals to develop positive aspirations and to turn those into real and sustainable life plans for the future.
Prison establishments provide a wide range of upskilling opportunities to better prepare individuals for release. The skills involved include parenting skills, financial management skills, health and wellbeing skills and other social and interpersonal skills. Establishments also provide a range of education and training opportunities, and prisoners who are approved for community access can benefit from supervised work.
Recently at a visit to HMP Perth, I visited the Bike Shed, which works in partnership with the Bike Station, which is a local enterprise. That collaboration trains people in custody for industry-recognised qualifications. That is an excellent example of a co-production partnership in action. Such partnerships operate every day in our prisons, and they should be commended for their contribution in helping those who are in custody to pay back to their communities and, crucially, for enhancing their skills and preparing them for a positive future outside custody.
What liaison is there across portfolios to assess skills shortages, particularly in the digital area, in order to maximise the economic opportunities for prisoners who are due for release and for the country as a whole? Is the cabinet secretary aware of any particular training areas in the digital sector?
I will explore that question more closely with the Scottish Prison Service. Clare Adamson makes an important point. We can effectively kill two birds with one stone. We can fill the shortages in the digital sector or other sectors and help people out of custody into positive future destinations.
The Scottish Prison Service launched its learning and skills strategy for 2016 to 2021 in May 2016. That strategy commits to very flexible learning opportunities. However, I will take away what Clare Adamson has said and explore the issue with the Scottish Prison Service to see whether there can be a better tie-up with the digital sector.