Select Committee on Education and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by The Dialogue Trust

  The Dialogue Trust helps reduce criminality by building bridges between those who commit crimes and other people. It does this by running professionally facilitated dialogue groups, held weekly with about 15 offenders. The groups bring offenders and non-offenders together to talk on-the-level in prisons and in the community. Through dialogue, offenders experience worthwhile relationships that improve their understanding of boundaries and how to establish and maintain boundaries, improves communication and social skills and, importantly, helps them to develop the confidence and the motivation to take further steps in their learning.

  The Trust has worked in HMPs Wandsworth, Norwich and Whitemoor and with Cambridgeshire probation. Responding to prison requirements, we obtained accreditation in 2006 as an approved centre for the National Open College Network, which allows us to offer an accredited programme of dialogue groups in prisons which lead to a Learning and Skills certificate. We are listed in the NOMS National Provider Network (reg no NPN 00209). In 2007, we will run a nine-month pilot of the accredited Learning and Skills programme at HMP Whitemoor.

  Since our accreditation under Learning and Skills, the Trust has been in touch with a number of prisons. It is clear from these contacts that finances are under extreme pressure. The Whitemoor pilot will be funded by a ratio of 4:1 of charitable funding to prison funding.

  We know that a lot of crime is due to the fact that the majority of offenders urgently need better education and skills in order to change their behaviour. It is disappointing that much of the resources depend on the vagaries of charitable funding. It is also dispiriting to know that, in this climate, one intervention tends to be funded at the cost of another.

  We continue to work at HMP Whitemoor and, in 2005-06, spent a year working at HMP Wandsworth, where we ran two dialogue groups. An evaluation of that work was positive. It is available on our website: along with a summary of the findings. Attached is a copy of recent comments from prisoners in our dialogue groups.


    —  "I think this is very important work that is being done."

    —  "Things have been said today that I'm going to take away with me and work on."

    —  "You have to change your mindset. There are vultures out there who are just waiting for you to show a bit of weakness. Something inside your head has to change."

    —  "Everyone has a choice. I accept responsibility for my actions."

    —  "I was very bitter and angry. Dialogue gives me my self respect and, even more so, helps me help other people."

    —  "I have learned things about myself and through going to Dialogue wish to do some charity work as Dialogue has helped me in so many ways. I wish to give something back."

    —  "I've got to question what I do, and I can do that in here."

    —  "I've been in (this prison) for two years and we've never talked like this before."

    —  "I always get new ideas on how to deal with things personally and in general."

    —  "The dialogue group has helped me (A) to understand myself in the light of society at large; (B) to understand others and the way they feel about themselves and the society; and (C) to cope with the everyday pressure in jail."

    —  "I've learnt more about myself and feel safer here in the dialogue group than all my years in the prison."

    —  Prisoner to Governor after he had attended the dialogue: "I don't want to hang you anymore."

    —  "This is a very good group and the people doing it are helping a lot."

    —  "This is an excellent initiative."

    —  "We need more of these groups."

December 2006

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