Select Committee on Education and Skills Written Evidence


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 not clear);

    —  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 more positive.

  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.

December 2006





 
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