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Employment and training in prison and the community
Clinks Advisory Group reports on employment and training in prisons and the community.

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Opportunity for all

Yesterday (24 April 2024) Clinks published a report from the RR3 Special Interest Group on Employment as part of the work of the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group.

The report Opportunity for all – employment and training in prisons and the community focuses on the barriers to employment faced by people, both in prison and on their release into the community and it explores five areas:

  1. Prison workshops
  2. The financial security of people in prison
  3. Employer and training provider engagement
  4. Addressing complex needs
  5. Service coordination

Developed in collaboration with 28 voluntary criminal justice sector organisations, the report sets out a range of recommendations designed to upskill and prepare people in prison for their release, as well as ensuring that there is sufficient support to sustain employment in the community.

The RR3

The Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) provides the key interface between the voluntary sector, the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS with the purpose of increasing mutual understanding and building a strong and effective partnership. The RR3 convenes Special Interest Groups to advise on specific areas of policy and practice and this report has been produced by the Employment SIG.

What makes a good prison workshop?

The report highlights a number of critical success factors for an effective prison workshop:

  • The right infrastructure in terms of appropriate spaces, equipment and staffing. Staffing included not just sufficiently skilled instructors but also sufficient staff to ensure that people in prison could get to the workshop.
  • Flexible provision tailored to the need of a particular establishment. The needs of people in a local prison are likely to be very different from those in an establishment holding mainly long sentence prisoners. It was also found important to align prison workshops with local labour requirements, ensuring that the provision is industry relevant and focused on skill gaps and vacancies in the local labour market.
  • It was felt important to recognise that some people needed individualised support and that workshops would not be appropriate for every person in prison. 
  • Since approximately half of everyone in prison probably has some form of neurodivergent condition, it is important that staff are equipped with the skills to deliver support for people with a range of learning needs.
  • It is important to create clear pathways through training and work in prison and on into the community on release.
  • In addition to the practical provision of learning skills within workshops, it is important to provide information and guidance services which focus on the main obstacles that people with criminal convictions will face on entering the labour market on their release.

Financial security

The report notes that many people entering prison find themselves in financial distress. This can be due to a range of factors including rent arrears, utility bill debts or credit card debts. Despite this, there is little focus at the induction stage of a person’s custodial sentence on supporting people to get their financial affairs in order. 

This section discusses fair prison pay rates, incentivising participation in education and accessing benefits on release.

Employment and training provider  engagement

The report highlights effective prison-employer engagement as a critical component of the resettlement process. Unsurprisingly, it concludes that further work is required to educate employers about the reality of working with people coming out of prison, alongside ensuring that employers are supported to work within this context. The report focuses on several key areas around boosting employer engagement including prioritising engaging with local employers with realistic and accessible opportunities, flexibility in training provision and bridging the gap between employment in prison and employment in the community.

Addressing complex needs

The report argues that a simple focus on trying to help people find a job immediately on release is not sufficient and calls for government policy to recognise and provide genuinely person-centred support for people in prison who require help addressing a range of complex needs, taking into account the challenges that so many people leaving prison face.

This chapter sets out the case for:

  • Long-term support and delivery
  • Holistic support
  • A focus on neurodiversity
  • Raising aspirations and
  • A new focus on supporting people convicted of sexual offences who now make up almost 30% of the prison population.

Service co-ordination

The final section of the report looks at the need to more effectively coordinate existing services –both within prisons and in the community – as a key component in boosting employment outcomes. Currently staff shortages and high staff turnover are having a significant impact on the quality and reliability of employment services for people in prison.  The report advocates for the benefits of a voluntary sector coordinator role, based within prisons.

Recommendations

Each of the five sections within the report set out a number of key recommendations.

 

Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the images in this post. You can see Andy’s work here

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One Response

  1. Having read the entire report I am drawn to a very short and in my view surprisingly unhelpful section right at the end which observes that 30% of the prison population have sexually related convictions.
    I would expect more effort, more emphasis and more help to be proposed than a single paragraph if there is a genuine desire to reduce reoffending and to resettle this disproportionately large percentage? Sadly, to me it reads like a throw away footnote in an otherwise superb paper.

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