Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 39)



  20. What I am saying is that according to my figures something like 70 per cent of prisoners who go to prison do not take an accredited course.
  (Mr Narey) They do not take an offending behaviour programme but they can go through and they do go through drug detox. They cannot go through drug treatment programmes, they are not there long enough. They can do some work in education but even then for something on education it needs six to eight weeks.

  21. So it is a very small number of prisoners who actually take an accredited course. This is contrary to Government policy because the Government's priority, as far as I understand it, is the revolving door policy whereby it is a fact that 60 per cent of prisoners reoffend and go back again.
  (Mr Narey) About 58 per cent of prisoners are reconvicted within two years of release. There are much shorter proportions for those who serve longer sentences and for whom we are able to do something.

  22. Is it not a fact that the vast majority of crime is carried out by a percentage of people who continue to go in and out of prison?
  (Mr Narey) I would agree with that.

  23. And your accredited courses do not cover those people?
  (Mr Narey) It is not because we are being cussed about this, it is because they do not work.

  24. I am going to come on to that. I would dispute whether they do work or they do not work. You say they do not work. On a recent visit to Durham Prison a few months ago, out of 600 male prisoners only 36 males qualified to go on an accredited course and out of 100 female prisoners only 36 qualified. In other words, all the rest were not in prison long enough to go on a course, so they were ignored.
  (Mr Narey) That is the picture in Durham, Mr Steinberg. If you went next door to Frankland in your constituency you would find all the prisoners able to do accredited courses.

  25. In Frankland somebody was doing an accredited course but they are not going to reoffend because they are in jail for 26 years. They are going to be a success rate because two years after they are still going to be in prison
  (Mr Narey) We measure success from the date of release not from the date of doing the course.

  26. You have got a hell of a long time to wait for that prisoner before you see whether it has been a success or not.
  (Mr Narey) With some prisoners serving very long sentences it is important to do that. With sex offender treatment programmes it is very important to do what we call a core programme and then follow that up some years later with the extended programme.

  27. But the point I also want to make is that in terms of your accredited courses, you claim success—and I am not disputing that—but the fact is that the vast majority of prisoners who actually do the accredited courses are serving more than two years after they finish doing the course.
  (Mr Narey) I am not sure what proportion is serving two years after they have finished the course. I could try and find that out for you.

  28. I would be interested to find out how many prisoners who have done an accredited course still have more than two years to serve.
  (Mr Narey) Even if that were the case I do not think that means it is not a worthwhile investment.[3]

  29. I am not arguing that. Our figures are slightly different but let's say 60 per cent are not going on a course. Let me continue the bit I did with Durham. They showed me round their re-settlement plan and what is happening there. This, if I remember rightly, included an individual needs' assessment which led to an individual intervention plan and that was given to all prisoners serving 12 months or with 26 weeks to serve. So, in other words, virtually every prisoner who was in the prison could actually go on this particular re-settlement course and it led to a job club. This job club was not accredited. It is something that the prison does itself. I took notes when I was there and when I saw this Report I thought, "I know a bit about this." Not that I know very much about very much but this one I seem to know. The assessment covered education, motivation, housing, finance, relationships, addiction and employment. So all those things were covered in this re-settlement plan and this job club but it is not accredited and therefore you as the head of Prison Service are not encouraging this sort of plan throughout the rest of the prison regime.
  (Mr Narey) That is not quite fair. What we are doing is concentrating scrupulously—and this Report makes plain we are right to do so—on what we believe will reduce offending with offending behaviour programmes, but in addition there are a host of other programmes which are springing up around the Service some of which in due course will become accredited. What we are about to publish is a framework for governors to give them advice on the sort of thing which we think will be effective. I have visited the job club at Durham as well and I think it is excellent and there are very many similar job clubs like that elsewhere.

  30. Are you prepared to encourage other prisons throughout the United Kingdom to adopt similar schemes to that run at Durham?
  (Mr Narey) Last year I issued a direction to the Service to encourage exactly that—to take the short-term prisoners who could not go on courses and for us still to pick up issues about employability, employment and tenancy, because for the prisoners I have talked about, for whom I admit we do very little because they are only with us number of weeks, that is still long enough to lose a job and to lose a tenancy.

  31. Do the accredited schemes that have been approved cover the topics that I mentioned?
  (Mr Narey) The accredited schemes tend to look at cognitive skills and will tend to look at impetuousness, which lies behind an awful lot of offending particularly by young men, and for sex offenders they look at some of the twisted thinking which lies behind some sex offending. For example, some paedophiles will rationalise their behaviour by arguing that a child can (a) consent to sex and (b) enjoy sex. It attacks that thinking and tries to turn it round and correct it.

  32. What you are saying is it does not cover some of these things. Some of these things are very successful in terms of what happens when they finish the course and leave prison. I am a cynical bloke and I think they do these things and they tell me it is successful but where are the statistics to show us? If you take this Durham one, it is a great scheme but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. How successful is it? How can you tell me it is successful? They told me out of 200 who had done the scheme, 34 per cent found a job. You just said to the Committee 20 per cent.
  (Mr Narey) 23 per cent nationally.

  33. They are saying that 34 per cent found work. That has got to be good.
  (Mr Narey) It is very good indeed. I could point you to another prison on the other side of the Pennines, Mr Steinberg, where 44 per cent are leaving Thorn Cross and going into jobs or education.

  34. Are they accredited schemes?
  (Mr Narey) No, they are not accredited schemes.

  35. That is the whole point I am trying to make. The whole Report seems to concentrate on accredited schemes which, frankly, do not appear to be very successful but the figures seem to have been manipulated to make them look successful. On the other hand, I have given you an example and you have just thrown an example back at me where you have said I can give you a better scheme than that yet it is not accredited, it has not been used —
  (Mr Narey) We are not choosing between them, Mr Steinberg. We have mentioned the effectiveness of the accredited schemes—

  36. How long does it take to get an accredited scheme agreed?
  (Mr Narey) Typically to develop and get it past the Accreditation Panel between two and three years.

  37. Yet a scheme like this can be set up pretty quickly.
  (Mr Narey) It can and I am not discouraging schemes like that. Indeed, I have just taken steps significantly to encourage them, but they are two different things and we can have both and need both. You are measuring the success of the scheme (and I think it is a pretty good proxy) by getting people into jobs because research suggests that those people going into jobs are less likely to offend by a half. In the accredited programmes which are offending behaviour programmes (and we have got lots of other programmes as well) we measure their effectiveness as we have done with the drugs treatment programmes by seeing whether or not people return to crime. I do not think they are the panacea, I do not think we have got a cure here, but we know from emerging research about to be published in the Spring after independent evaluation that reconviction rates from those people who have done these programmes two years after leaving prison are significantly lower than we would otherwise expect. That is not to suggest that we do not need the re-settlement programmes as well. I desperately want both and I have been very encouraging to Mike Newell, the Governor of Durham, in expanding the job club there and have seen similar ones elsewhere.

  38. Durham seems to be doing very well and it has proved that again by showing that 30 per cent got interviews, ten per cent went on to further education training and 100 per cent got a New Deal appointment. So the success rate on that scheme is very good but the point I am trying to get across is it should be encouraged throughout the Prison Service and I am not sure that it is being encouraged throughout the Prison Service. I think a lot of governors, with great respect, are not as innovative as the ones that we have in Durham, but I would not expect you to comment!
  (Mr Narey) Having started my career there I might agree with that! I can promise you that I am urgently encouraging the expansion of those programmes. What I would say is the Prison Service cannot do this by ourselves. We desperately need the help of other agencies—the Employment Service, the Benefits Agency—if we are really going to make the impact which I believe we can.

  39. I am very close to my time. It is a pity you are not coming back again on Wednesday. In the recent HMI Report—and I am sorry to go on about Durham—the Chief Inspector said the Prison Service "has a total obsession with accredited, high-level courses only needed by and appropriate to a few prisoners." What are your views on that statement?
  (Mr Narey) I disagree with that statement. I have had many discussions with the previous Chief Inspector and demonstrated to him that that is not the case. We issued a Prison Service Order last October on re-settlement, and the whole emphasis on the work we have been doing recently has been to build on accredited programmes and to expand them. Our emphasis has been, for example, with the Employment Service, putting up electronic job kiosks in prisons so that people many miles from their home town can find out what is in their own job centre. We place a huge emphasis on getting people into jobs and into accommodation because I believe that is vital. We are not choosing between one and the other. What I would like to do in every prison is to have accredited programmes and the sort of re-settlement initiatives that run so well at Durham and also at Low Newton.

  Mr Steinberg: Thank you.

  Chairman: George Osborne?

3   Ev 24, Appendix 1. Back

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