Better education and training opportunities must be given to offenders serving short term sentences, to re-integrate them into society and cut reoffending.
Following a six month inquiry, the National Skills Forum believes there is not enough being done to tackle the problem ex-offenders have securing work because of inadequate or irrelevant training.
The organisation’s research found that 52 per cent of male offenders and 71 per cent of female offenders have no qualifications, and £30 million is spent each year on prisoners being transferred before they complete education courses.
The Forum claims that improving education and skills alone could help cut reoffending and save up to £325 million a year in the process.
The call comes as part of the forum’s six-month inquiry into the links between skills training and the social exclusion of offenders, people with disabilities and black and minority groups.
Across all three of the social groups investigated, the inquiry concluded that “a combination of inflexible funding and low expectations of peer groups and employers, alongside a government obsession with ‘ticking boxes’ over training provision, is to blame for a swathe of worklessness and social exclusion”.
Gordon Marsden MP, inquiry co-chair, said:
“We have to urgently expand our approach to training, skills and education for a generation of learners from disadvantaged or excluded groups. We must act to provide them with the kinds of educational and training opportunities that we provide to others to help boost their skills and improve their lives. That’s an absolutely vital requirement and message for any society wishing to make the best use of its talent and resources and to boost social inclusion.”
Jacqui Henderson CBE, inquiry co-chair and Director of Creative Leadership & Skills Strategies, added:
“Getting training right is about giving people the skills they and potential employers actually need and raising expectations of what learners from disadvantaged or excluded groups can achieve. What emerged very clearly from the inquiry was that we must start with the needs of the learner rather than obsessing about targets and box ticking.
“That means putting in place simplified funding mechanisms that support people with disabilities into training and on into work and doing more to tackle negative or low aspirations around black and minority ethnic learners.
“Too many offenders are still falling through the cracks and going back into prison because they don’t have the right skills and opportunities to make that leap into employment. It is not simply enough that we recognise these perennial problems; we must take the kind of bold policy steps recommended by this inquiry to meet these people’s needs.”
The report calls for a new approach to monitoring and tackling inequality in skills training provision. Proposals for doing this for offenders include:
- Greater use of release on temporary licence for work experience and work trials to boost ex-offenders employability.
- Employer network to be set-up to share knowledge and best practice on employing ex-offenders.
- Government to include education & training as inherent part of sentencing process, especially for those on short-term sentences.
- Participation in education & training should be made integral to the daily prison regime.
- Government must raise investment in IT learning resources, such as the ‘Virtual Campus’ e-learning initiative to help offenders continue their education despite transfer between prisons.