Letter submitted by Phil Hope MP, Parliamentary
Under Secretary of State for Skills to Paul Holmes MP
I see you have asked a number of questions over
the last few days about offender learning. Although I have responded
to the questions, you will notice that in some instances the replies
reveal the lack of reliable data on offender learning from the
past. Although I have tried to provide information that helps
with your queries, it is often the case that the Parliamentary
process allows me only to set out very straightforward answers
to questions posed. This letter tries to give a bit more detail
on the issues you have raised.
In particular, I wanted to set out some further
thoughts on offender learning data and then on our research activities.
On data, my answers refer generally to new LSC
data from August 2006. That is the first data emerging from the
LSC since it assumed full responsibility for planning and funding
offender learning on 31 July 2006. It represents the kind of detailed
information we shall be receiving on a monthly basis, augmented
by an annual set of data on offender learners as part of the LSC's
Individualised Learner Record.
I wanted to offer some more background detail
on your question 105838 about research the DfES has conducted
or evaluated into the effect of prisoner education on re-offending
rates. I know you have asked a very similar question of the Home
Secretary and that he is likely to respond with information about
the detailed study of a cohort of offenders that his Department
has underway. We all expect that study to provide a wealth of
data on the various factors (the seven "pathways") that
lead to reduced reoffending.
Your question asked particularly about research
we here have commissioned into offender learning and its effect
on re-offending. As my answer said, we have done none. But prior
to the publication of the Green Paper Reducing Re-Offending
Through Skills and Employment [December 2005] we did publish
a short review of existing research evidence on the impact of
skills and skills acquisition on employment and recidivism for
offenders. It found that:
among all adults age 16-65, and offenders
in the community or post release, those with higher skills are
more likely to be in employment;
evidence suggests that unemployment
and offending are linked, (although the nature of the link is
one of the primary interventions
to help lower reconviction rates is the provision of education
and training for offenders; but
that there was no robust UK evidence
that acquiring basic or vocational skills in prison directly leads
to higher employment rates on release, or a direct reduction in
recidivism. However, the international evidence appeared rather
That analysis formed the basis of the Green
Paper proposition that skills acquisition leads to employment
which, in turn, leads to reduced re-offending.
Subsequent DfES-sponsored research by the National
Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy
(Rapid Evidence Assessment of Interventions that Promote Employment
for Offenders, 2006) found that interventions focused on employment
can make a significant difference to the employment rates of offenders.
In six out of seven intervention programmes identified by the
review, offenders in the treatment group were significantly more
likely to be employed at least six months after completion than
those in the comparison groups. The review suggested that work
in prisons, vocational training and community employment programmes
can all have a positive impact on employment.
I hope this information is helpful in setting
out some of the background in rather more detail than I was able
in my responses to your written questions in Parliament.