Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)



  60. What it does have to do is liaise with those agencies in the outside world in advance of somebody being propelled into the outside world because those people are going back to the circumstances that brought them in anyway very often.
  (Beverley Hughes) Absolutely and certainly as a politician like yourself I am acutely aware of that and that is why it has got to be seen in the context of public protection and reducing crime. If we are sending people out very much in the same state as they came in they are going back to communities, they are going to commit more crimes in those communities and create more victims. It has to be part of that agenda. The Joint Inspectors' Report on Resettlement and the Social Exclusion Unit Report has also highlighted the need for that interface, and I would argue not just the interface between somebody going from custody back into the community but actually starting at the point pre-sentence where agencies in the community liaise with prison and then back again, the "through the gate" concept—that interface has got to be much stronger and much more seamless in terms of the experience of the offender. There is no reason why programmes and education and so on started in prison should not continue in a seamless way outside in the community. We are not there yet but that is where we need to get to.

  61. To what extent is it the resettlement officers' job to establish some links in the outside world before that person leaves the jail?
  (Mr Sutton) We are beginning to make progress very much along those lines. If I could mention one example. The Employment Service has allocated an additional £1 million to ensure that there is a proper tie up between the prison and the receiving areas' job centres so the process of looking for a job can be established with a guaranteed interview in the prisoner's home area, and that is arranged as part of this programme before release. That is one example of a recognition of the point that the Committee is making. But we know that there is a tremendous distance to travel. The extent to which we are dealing with problems of social disadvantage with the prison population is becoming ever more clear as we look at the resettlement agenda. Over one quarter of prisoners were in care as children, which is 13 times the rate of the general population. Almost four in five male prisoners had been permanently or temporarily excluded from school, which is clearly out of sync with the general population. Over two in three prisoners were unemployed at the time of imprisonment. So the extent to which we are dealing, as it were, not so much with the problem of resettlement but with putting in place for the first time some of the elements of resettlement that prisoners require is becoming clearer and with it the task that we face in joining up with the range of other agencies. We are making progress, for example, just one further example if I may, we are now with the Probation Service introducing offending behaviour programmes that can start in prison and be continued in the community post release. In that fashion we are beginning to make headway.
  (Beverley Hughes) We do have a joint assessment process now called Oasys which has been developed to be used across the probation and prison estate. It is going to be operationalised on a paper basis over the next year on probation moving towards an IT model that can be applied in probation and prison. That is the essential building block really because we can get some shared assessment. The one thing the joint inspectors pointed out is that everybody was reassessing from scratch the first time they met a person, whereas one assessment can follow them through. That is one important area of the joint work, but in terms of picking up something in your question, I do think we need a model, a concept or a framework within which more effective, tighter, robust liaison working together across agencies can actually take place and follow an offender through. The Social Exclusion Unit team has been considering whether or not a case management approach across services is actually going to be the best vehicle for doing that. I very much welcome that. It is something we have already—prior to the publication of our report, which I hope will come out in the new year—been talking to the Probation Service and the Prison Service about, as to how such a case management model might be operationalised.

Bridget Prentice

  62. I think you have fairly comprehensively covered much of what I wanted to ask but there were one or two specifics I would like to go into detail with you on. I think in education, training and employment we can all agree if they happen before somebody gets into prison it is obviously a much better way of reducing the prison population than probably almost anything else. However, we are stuck with the situation that we have where half the prisoners do not have the qualification or type of jobs you want them to have. You said that 12,000 have achieved level 2 in literacy and numeracy last year 2000-2001 and that will be increased to 18,000 this year, and you have a target of 36,000 by 2003-04. First of all, what percentage increase was that 12,000 increase on the previous year?
  (Mr Narey) I would have to dig out that figure and write to the Committee[11]. I think it was about 7,000 the previous year so the 12,000 was a very significant increase and in the year 2000 further still. So much so, in fact, that I have been discussing with the Minister whether or not the emphasis on level 2 (which I think is very important) is beginning to distort performance in terms of driving governors to get level 2 accreditations. This year I am beginning to become convinced that we are concentrating rather too much on that level and not pulling enough people through at entry level on literacy and numeracy at level 1, and we need to make sure that the targets we set fully reflect the educational needs.

  63. Is that a hint that you will not be reaching 36,000 by 2003-04?
  (Mr Narey) I think we will probably do more than reach all the targets we have on the literacy and numeracy accreditations and the increase this year shows what we can do when we set out our stall to do it. I think if we get a more reasonable spread of accreditations from entry level to level 2, there is a good possibility if I get some of the investment from DFES, that I will do rather more than my targets.

  64. The Chairman mentioned the phrase that you mentioned, Mr Narey, of "quality not quantity". When we talked about purposeful activity, Mr Sutton was very keen to tell us that this has been increased. I just wonder if we are being absolutely accurate on that in that in the figures we have suggested, that the number of hours available to each individual prisoner has not increased.
  (Mr Narey) The point that Mr Sutton was trying to make is that over the last two years or so we have raised purposeful activity by more than two million hours a week but the denominator has gone up, so instead of getting to the point (which I would like) where we have more than 30 hours, which we have in the juvenile estate, we have only managed to keep pace and so it looks to the outside world as if there is no more purposeful activity in prisons than all those years ago. In fact there are millions and millions more hours but the denominator keeps rising and absorbing that.

  65. Is that an achievable target which you can reach?
  (Mr Narey) The current target is 24 hours and at the moment, frustratingly, our performance is about 23.8 and this year we will probably just miss the 24 hours because of the rise in the population. I would not like to give any commitment for what the level per prisoner will be until I know more about movements in the population and investment. With our youngest prisoners, those under 18, where we have had a very significant investment from the Youth Justice Board the levels of purposeful activity will exceed 40 hours next year, we hope, in education alone and in education and other training activity every prisoner in our care who is aged 17 and under will receive 30 hours of education and training activity per week.

  66. For the Committee's sake give us a picture of what would need to be done to increase purposeful activity by one hour per prisoner over the whole prison population?
  (Mr Narey) We would need 68,000 additional activity hours in the week spread over the whole population. I have been very careful to avoid just quantity in reaching this target and I have tried to concentrate on quality. I could have made this target last year and this year if I had crammed workshops full of prisoners. The target has not been reached in part because rather than doing that I have made sure that prisoners have been in literacy and numeracy classes which traditionally have had no more than five or six in a class or in offender behaviour programmes where there is a dozen, or in drug treatment programmes which could be quite small. It would be very easy for me to say I could reach any target if I crammed people into workshops which, frankly, for the most part were not teaching skills that were going to make very much difference to someone's employment. If we are going to increase the hours and do things that make a difference then that would require some significant additional investment and I am grateful for the Minister's determination to try, if she can, to give them that investment particularly for those aged 18 to 20 (in the wake of much better treatment for juveniles) to make it a priority area.

  67. How much is that investment roughly?
  (Beverley Hughes) We have not yet got it, we have got through the first sift of a bid under the Capital Modernisation Fund to improve the estate in relation to 18 to 20s, but this is also going to be, I hope, a major part of our bid under the next spending review to secure the revenue that we need to make sure we can deliver, as the Director-General says, the improved regime and programmes for 18s to 20s. This was a Manifesto commitment at the last Election and, as I said, it is going to be a major part of our planned bid to the Treasury spending review.

  68. I hope the Treasury will listen to manifesto commitments, that is always a useful thing for them to do because obviously 68,000 hours requires quite a number of teachers and instructors, does it not, can you give us a rough idea?
  (Mr Narey) For 18s to 20s to provide a regime with the emphasis on education, drug treatment and so forth that we would like, just for that age group, it probably requires somewhere in the region of £20 or £30 million a year to provide the extra teachers we need. We are very encouraged by the Capital Modernisation Fund because that would give us new education blocks so we have got the classrooms, but I still need the money to give me the budget year-on-year to provide the teachers and so forth.

  69. Is the Prison Service having any difficulty recruiting teachers, as seems to be the case elsewhere?
  (Mr Narey) Yes. We are not, for the most part, a very attractive employer to those in the teaching profession and we have to try to be much more flexible in taking on part-time staff if we are to get the people we need. It is interesting that once people come into prison education they often become entirely captivated by it and stay, but getting people in initially is quite difficult. Exactly the same applies in health care.

  70. Mr Sutton says you are working on a strategy for working with the voluntary sector.
  (Mr Sutton) Yes.

  71. Have you any examples of any work done with the voluntary sector at all?
  (Mr Sutton) There are countless examples of work that we are doing with a whole raft of voluntary sector partners—NACRO, SOVA. In referring to the strategy I was not meaning to suggest that the collaboration with those partners was waiting the strategy, but in future it would be more structured by that strategy which we have recently agreed within the Prison Service.

  72. Just finally on post-prison employment, you did say, and I was pleased to hear it, that you do have contact with the Employment Service. Does the Employment Service go into prison and speak to prisoners? Does the job centre bring along their little cards and say, "Here are the jobs available in location X"? What follow-up do you do to ensure that they have remained in employment?
  (Mr Sutton) It is starting to happen. What we are looking to do is look at a range of ways of involving outside agencies. I mentioned the particular initiative of the Employment Service, what they call Fresh Start, and that involves not the Employment Service actually coming into the prison but making sure that the prison staff, working with the Employment Service people on the outside, arrange a guaranteed interview for the prisoner post-release in the prisoner's home area, which is significant, so we are looking at a variety of different patterns of working with the Employment Service and others. Clearly where we can engage with the Employment Service coming into prison, as they have done in a number of our welfare to work pilots, that is extremely valuable, but that is very labour intensive, so we are looking at a range of ways of making sure that, when the prisoner is released, proper arrangements have been made with his or her home area to pick up on that, and we are not dependent on one particular model. The contribution of the Employment Service there is very welcome and it is a sign of the pattern of activity that we are seeking to develop. There are other examples with the Benefits Agency coming into prisons, for example, for similar reasons.
  (Mr Narey) May I add to that. I am quite excited by the possibility that this year working with the Employment Service in a number of local prisons we will introduce electronic job kiosks so a prisoner who is in a prison 100 miles away from home will be able to log into a job centre in his home town and find out what jobs are available there, which will be a big improvement on what we currently do which is to try to replicate job centres rather than linking people into the real job centres where they are going to live.

  73. Does anyone ever bring employers into prisons to meet the prisoners and talk about the jobs available?
  (Mr Sutton) That does happen. Again as part of our "custody to work" initiative we will be building stronger bridges to employers. We are particularly looking at a number of sectors of the job market where we think it is more feasible and realistic for prisoners to get into employment on release, and we have recently initiated contact with construction industry representatives, with industrial cleaning, with catering, with the leisure industry, all sectors where we think there is a particular contribution that we can achieve. So we are looking with the representative bodies in particular in those industries to ensure we are making the right contacts, bringing in employers to the prison where that can help, but also making sure we are preparing the prisoners for the kind of employment which these days they might expect to get post-release.

  74. Do you do any follow-up to check they are still in employment a year after they have left prison?
  (Mr Sutton) There is limited work, to be honest, at the moment of that kind. As we introduce the new target of doubling the number of prisoners going into employment post-release, there will be stronger connections made. As we work with the Probation Service more closely, there will be better contact and better information available because we know that if we can get prisoners into jobs which they hold they are twice as likely not to re-offend than if that is not the case. So we know that we are making a contribution to reduce re-offending when we can make that link. But it is important, as I think your question suggests, it is not just any old job on a first day which the prisoner might not stay in, we have to look for employment which is stable employment.


  75. Do you have a base line figure for April 2001 on which to base your target?
  (Mr Sutton) No, we do not, Chairman. What we have currently is an estimate from NACRO evidence that only 10 per cent of prisoners discharged go into employment on release. We have some research currently underway which will report in the next few weeks from which we will be constructing a more accurate base line, but for the moment we are dependent on that rather out-of-date assessment.

  76. So when do you anticipate having a base line figure?
  (Mr Sutton) Within the next month.

  77. Have you decided not to include a target for re-offending as a key performance indicator?
  (Mr Sutton) No, we are very much part of a target of reducing re-convictions by 5 per cent over that same period. The prison and probation programmes are key contributors to achieving that target, so we are very much part of that. The employment target will be part of it and has its own focus but it is not at the expense of the contribution to the overall re-conviction target.

Mr Malins

  78. Can anyone tell me how many hours' purposeful activity per day or per week would a man of 19 have at Feltham Remand Institute?[12]

  (Mr Narey) I think I can tell that reasonably accurately, Mr Malins. I will correct it if I am wrong. It is about 18 or 19.

  79. You wrote, Mr Narey, and told us it was 14.9 in the spring, do you accept that 18 or 19, if that is the case, is very low and it ought to be effectively upped by at least 50 per cent in the next six months?
  (Mr Narey) I would love it to be upped by that percentage. I think when I wrote to you I said 14 was an improvement. Feltham is an establishment of contrasts. The side dealing with those under 18 is excellent.

11   See Appendix, Ev. 25 Back

12   See Appendix, Ev 25. Back

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