Shaw Trust has recently submitted evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into the housing and employment support available for offenders on their release from prison.
The role that employment plays in reducing reoffending is clear. A study from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) highlighted that being in employment one year after release from custody reduced reoffending by 9.4% for offenders sentenced to less than one year in prison, and by 5.6% for those with longer sentences.
However, research from focus groups with Shaw Trust staff members working with offenders and ex-offenders highlight that more needs to be done to improve the effectiveness of employment support, both in custody and in the community.
Shaw Trust staff paint a mixed picture of the effectiveness of existing employment support. Although there are pockets of best practice, staff felt that much of the support on offer did not prepare offenders for employment. Our experience leads to the following recommendations:
Recommendation 1: Employment support in custody should be better tailored to local labour market requirements.Education and training programmes in custody are effective when there is a real chance of a job at the end of their sentence.
Vocational training delivered should be linked to the skills needs of local employers, and offenders should be supported to gain the vital soft skills required by all employers. Equipping offenders with core employability and vocational skills strengthens their ability to find and sustain work upon release.
Recommendation 2: Employability support should form a core part of support pre-release, and this support should be delivered over a longer period prior to release from custody.
For offenders to realistically sustain employment, access to holistic, person-centred support, which addresses an individual's employment, housing, health and family needs is needed pre-release. This support should be delivered up to at least three months prior to release to give case managers sufficient time to coordinate the complex elements involved.
Recommendation 3: Employability support for ex-offenders should be re-shaped.Consideration should be given to how employment support for ex-offenders fits into their rehabilitation plans.
In particular, future employment support should be offered on a voluntary basis at a time most suitable for each individual, and should be fully joined up to probation services. The design of DWP's new Work and Health programme provides an ideal opportunity to re-consider the most effective ways to support ex-offenders into work.
Shaw Trust has burgeoning experience of supporting ex-offenders into employment. Through the delivery of our Work Programme prime contract in London East, we have delivered employability support to over a thousand ex-offenders in Payment Group Nine (PG9), accessing the Work Programme from early in their release from custody.
Shaw Trust has also recently started delivering the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) new tranche of ESF provision across London, the South West and the East of England.
This provision works with offenders in custody and in the community to deliver person-centred support, including employability support, to reduce their likelihood to reoffend.
Additionally, Shaw Trust is operating an innovative pilot with the Scottish Prison Service in HMP Low Moss to deliver joined up support from custody and into the community. Shaw Trust welcomes the government's commitment to enhancing the employment support available.