Examination of Witnesses (Questions 385
TUESDAY 11 NOVEMBER 2008
Chairman: Welcome to you both; thank
you for joining us this afternoon.
Q385 Julie Morgan: I wanted to start
off by asking what progress has been made in meeting the needs
of offenders in education and in employment in the community and
in prisons since there has been this greater collaboration between
the different organisations involved and since the establishment
Jon Gamble: Shall I start? I think
there has been significant progress across a number of different
indicators. When OLASS was first mooted as a reform programme
something in the region of 75% of the existing learning and skills
service judged by Ofsted was deemed to be unsatisfactory. We have
now turned that situation around working in partnership, so we
have a situation where now 80% is deemed as satisfactory or better
and in fact we have just been advised by Ofsted of the first Grade
1 inspection for learning and skills in a prison at Askham Grange
Q386 Julie Morgan: So that is the
provision is deemed satisfactory?
Jon Gamble: Or better, yes. The
quality of the learning and skills provision itself, in its delivery
and in the level of outcomes reached. I can go on to talk about
outcomes in terms of the way in which achievements are now being
recorded. In the first year of operation we have data that supports
42,000 achievements in skills for life were recorded, of which
20,000 were actually the qualifications that count towards the
PSA target. And in a raft of other qualifications in terms of
IT and vocational skills there were 106,000 positive outcomes,
of which 69% were approved qualifications. So in the first year
of operation there were 90,000 qualifications awarded to offenders
in custody. It is not so straightforward to make those same judgments
in terms of the community because of the issues in terms of identifying
the offender learners in the community. We certainly have taken
steps to try to help self-declaration of that but it is an ongoing
data issue about how we actually identify offenders serving their
sentence in the community through a learning and skills programme,
because as far as our providers are concerned unless they are
positively referred by probation they are in fact learners. What
that means is that there has been an overall achievement rate,
certainly in custody, of 43%, which compares against an overall
achievement rate in what we would call a mainstream setting of
66%. So when you take the cohort of learners with whom the providers
are dealing, with a high incidence of learning disability, mental
health issues, truancy from school, no previous qualifications,
no culture of learning-that is a good, solid start. We have very
little data against which to compare that but what we have started
to do is to benchmark that data nationally and also then to drill
down regionally and by provider and by type of prison so that
we understand more about where the service is as opposed to the
budgetthe offender learning skills serviceis having
the most impact. We do know that it is having the most impact
in terms of category B and C prisons and in women's prisons also.
Q387 Julie Morgan: Can you remind
us what is category B and C?
Ian Porée: Category C is
essentially a training prison. A, B, C and D are security classifications,
A being the most dangerous and D being essentially someone who
is ready to be in an open prison where their risk is deemed manageable,
that they can actually go out during the day and they come back
in the evening. So B and C are medium and then lower risk individuals
and largely they are training prisons.
Q388 Julie Morgan: Obviously in terms
of having those skills their employability is increased. What
about translating that into actual employment when they leave
prison. Do you have any data on that?
Jon Gamble: The Learning and Skills
Council does not collect data on employment status, it collects
data on outcomes of qualifications. What we can say is that the
way in which the curriculum is designed supports the softer skills-the
softer employability skills as well as the hard vocational skills
in terms of preparing individuals for employment. I know through
some of the surveys that the prison service has done, and to which
Ian has already alluded, there is significant progress being made
in terms of getting offenders into employment.
Ian Porée: The current
prison performance is 26.8% of people leaving the prison would
go into work.
Q389 Dr Palmer: Is that a week or
is it a month?
Ian Porée: They would be
going straight into an interview or a job which is already arranged,
so it would not pick up people who become self-employed or work
on a more informal basis.
Q390 Julie Morgan: Does that mean
that 70% are going out without a jobnot going to work?
Ian Porée: That is correct,
Q391 Julie Morgan: So there is a
long way to go.
Mike Stewart: Could I add a slightly
different perspective? One of the things I do is chair something
called the European Offender Employment Forum and have done for
a while, so I was involved in working with all the equal development
partnerships that were working with offenders over the last two
or three years. Before I say what I want to say I would preface
that by saying that I have worked with colleagues from prison
and the LSC for a very long time and I think where we are now
compared to where we were 10 years ago things have moved on an
awful lot. But what is disappointing in a wayand perhaps
inevitable, I would say, in terms of the way that things were
organisedis that although OLASS I think is brilliant and
has moved an awful long way from where things were it is still
disconnected, in my view, often within the prison system from
what else is going on, and that is the feedback we are getting
from the organisations that have worked on the equal programme.
For the structural reasons that people have mentioned before,
as people move from prison to prison taking their learning with
them is incredibly difficult. Although, as I say, great strides
have been made those sorts of obstructions are inherent in the
system and make it very difficult from an offender perspective
to get the sort of clear picture that is perhaps apparent from
the top but not apparent from when you are receiving the service
at a local level.
Q392 Alun Michael: I want to ask
a question about capacityand can I say that while I am
well out of dateit is over 20 years ago that I did work
with young offenders and with unemployed youngstersI do
not underestimate the difficulty of giving the skills that are
necessarydo you have enough information, do you have enough
capacity within the criminal justice system and within the learning
and skills providers to meet the learning and skills needs of
offenders, firstly in the community and secondly within the custody
Jon Gamble: I will start on that.
In terms of capacity there are two capacity issues. There is one
concerning the budget that is voted, called the OLASS budgetthat
currently stands at £160 million across the whole piecebut
to that of course the Learning and Skills Council has at its disposal,
certainly for adults approaching £4 billion of funding. So
that for offenders serving their sentence in the community there
is the capacity and the provider base to actually deliver more
learning and skills activity to offenders serving their sentence
in the community. In terms of the capacity in custody, I think
it is rewarding to see that the service inherited participation
rates of about 30% and they are currently running nearer to 40%
so there has been a 10 percentage point increase in engagement
of offenders in learning and skills.
Q393 Chairman: That is the proportion
of people in custody engaging in programmes provided for them?
Jon Gamble: Month on month, so
in any one month four out of 10 offenders in custody would engage
with learning and skills. Over a 12-month period, taking stock
and flow into account, it is just over 50%. There were just upward
of 82,000 offenders in custody in the first year of Offender Learning
And Skills Service that engaged with some form of learning and
skills. So whilst it would always be good to be able to continue
to increase that provision I think the capacity we have, remembering
that this is just one of a number of interventions with offenders,
certainly while they are in custody
Ian Porée: I think there
would be more capacity constraints if you were talking about employments
in prisons. So are there enough places where people can effectively
go to work every day and in the workplace we then do vocational
skills training as part of if you are working in a prison kitchen
you would then be trained initially on health and safety training
and eventually in industrial catering. So the availability of
jobs within prisons clearly would be more of a capacity constraint
than learning opportunities.
Q394 Alun Michael: But it is actually
a constraint on the learning of skills as well then?
Ian Porée: It certainly
Q395 Alun Michael: Could I ask from
the other side of that coin, the needs of offenders as a group
of the local populationis that something that is explicitly
addressed by mainstream learning and skills providers now? It
was not in the pastor certainly was not always in the past.
Is there a positive approach to that now?
Jon Gamble: There is a positive
approach but I would not want to mislead in saying that there
were major inroads being made into that, not simply because of
the resource issueit is more to do with how we can identify
offenders in the community through introduction into our mainstream
providers. This is an area of partnership we are optimistic that
the new configuration of NOMS will actually support bringing probation
and custody together.
Q396 Alun Michael: Why is it still
difficult to make that identification?
Jon Gamble: It is in terms of
the referrals from the probation service into learning and skills
provision. It has been a continual difficulty in terms of getting
Q397 Alun Michael: Sorry, I do not
quite understand what the problem is there. Are you saying that
the referrals do not get made by NOMS?
Jon Gamble: Insufficient referrals
are actually made into provision in the mainstream, in our view.
Ian Porée: I suspect there
are a number of things happening, one of which of course is that
if you are an offender in the community you would probably not
want to be identified as an offender to the mainstream learning
provider, and then the problem we have as a system is that you
would be invisible in the learning and skills world because you
would essentially just be another learner receiving mainstream
learning services. So the data around how many offenders are actually
receiving mainstream services would certainly be skewed by declaring,
"I am an offender" because in the mainstream service
quite rightly the skills world would not identify you as an offenderjust
the justice world identifies you as an offender.
Q398 Alun Michael: But the exchange
of identification and data in a proper and managed way is absolutely
crucial and I am rather surprised that you say this because this
was a problem that was identified 10 years ago and sometimes issues
about data instead of being solved are taken as an excuse not
to share relevant information. Is there a problem here?
Ian Porée: I think I am
describing a recording of information within the skills world
as opposed to sharing of information between justice and skills.
Q399 Alun Michael: I think it would
be interesting for us to have a bit more information on this issue.
Mike Stewart: If I may, on the
drug services side there are all sorts of similar issues and within
the new drug strategy there is now provision for primary legislation
to enable that sort of data sharing between agencies on the drugs
services side for employment and learning and all the rest of