Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 159)



  140. Given that, do you think there will be some argument to spend some of the £34,000 you spend on each inmate on giving them a proper education to exclude children wandering around committing crime and not attending school? At least if it is not your money, that would be a great investment that would reduce your costs considerably.
  (Mr Narey) Yes, I would welcome that. I think a significant reduction in the numbers excluded from school would have downstream effects for the prison population which would be very welcome indeed.

  141. In terms of jobs and work, it is the case that once a prisoner leaves your hospitality or whatever, he then has this problem, as you say, of one week's benefit, a problem with accommodation. If he has broken his family links because he has been banged up miles from his home and his wife has met somebody else while he has been in prison, if he does not get an immediate job he is likely to reoffend, is he not?
  (Mr Narey) I agree.

  142. You are spending an extra £30 million on trying to encourage job offers, is that right?
  (Mr Narey) Yes, we are doing a lot of work with a lot of help in very recent months really from the Employment Service to try to make it easier for people to get jobs. I mentioned, for example, our installation of electronic job centre kiosks in prisons so even if somebody is away from home, somebody from Croydon who might be in Manchester even, they can find what jobs are going in the Croydon job centre down the line.

  143. Can I focus now on the amount of investment in training and the like in short term prisoners that Mr Steinberg focused on. I have to say it does seem to me intuitively that putting more and more money into long term people who probably have been established as prisoners as opposed to intensive retraining or education for short term prisoners is completely the wrong way round. It seems to me that those prisoners who go in for a short period of time, if they have got no opportunities to retrain or re-education or to apply properly for jobs to ensure that they get a job immediately on leaving prison, the probability of them reoffending is massively increased and subsequently over time, when reoffending, they increase the probability of never getting a job and ending up as a long term prisoners. Would you not agree that we should review the focus of investment in training, our personal presentational skills, basic literacy and numeracy, etc, towards first time relatively short term offenders?
  (Mr Narey) I would love to do that and, indeed, our performance, interestingly, for first time offenders is very good. The proportion of first time offenders sent to custody who are reconvicted within two years is I believe only 17 per cent. The problem with short term prisoners, as I mentioned before, is—and I am very careful to say this particularly in front of sentencers because I do not want people to be sent to prison for longer—we have to have them long enough to make a difference. Even moving someone up educationally it means they have got to spend, my teachers tell me, typically between six and eight weeks before we will effect a move in their literacy or numeracy ability from one level to another. We are not excluding them. Those short term prisoners do get the benefit of detoxification, not drug treatment programmes but counselling and assessment and perhaps referral to a community agency for drug prevention and we will start some work on literacy and numeracy. There is a big dislocation at the moment, I am afraid, between the number of people who start education with us and leave us with the job unfinished and the numbers who will go into education when they go out.

  144. It seems to me from what you are saying the mainstream of children obviously are in school all the time and in some sense they are incarcerated in school being taught. Then there is this group of children who are basically roaming around without those confines who then find themselves in your hands. You are not allowed to keep them long enough to make up for the loss of time in their education to make them go down the straight and narrow. Is that reasonable?
  (Mr Narey) Some of them we are but for those sentenced to a very short period of time we can only begin to start the work. We will frequently put short sentence prisoners into education but we will not do enough to significantly affect their employability which is why I personally would very much welcome the proposals in the Halliday Report for a much closer working relationship between us and probation so that very short periods in custody will be followed by community supervision which might include, for example, attendance at college.

  145. Given that I have been focusing on the issues of continuous accommodation, access to work and social networks, all those seem to lend themselves to supporting the new initiatives of not having people stay in prison over the weekend and maintain the accommodation, work and social networks. In your thinking do you think that this will help reduce the level of reoffending?
  (Mr Narey) Weekend or mid-week imprisonment?

  146. Weekend imprisonment?
  (Mr Narey) Yes, I think it would. I think it would be attractive to sentencers, particularly for women prisoners who are married who would be allowed to spend some time at home looking after the children. I think it would make a very big impact on the women themselves and the future of their children.

  147. I do not know whether you have got the figure on homelessness?
  (Mr Narey) Yes, I have.

  148. I am interested if you have got a figure for mental health because I think it is well known how many prisoners you have got with mental health problems.
  (Mr Narey) Forty per cent are homeless on release and homeless ex-prisoners are two and a half times more likely to reoffend.
  (Mr Newcomen) And we have figures that two in five males and almost four in five female prisoners have a neurotic disorder. One in 14 males and one in seven females have a psychotic disorder. Those are very significant numbers.

  149. Can I very briefly turn to the issue of if you claim you are innocent you are excluded from programmes. Mr Narey mentioned the problems with sex offenders, and I appreciate, that but with non-sex offenders do you not feel that there is a strong argument that these people should have the opportunities afforded to others?
  (Mr Narey) They should and they are doing. There is only one course for non-sex offenders which is excluded to those who deny their guilt. All other courses, all the cognitive skills courses, the vast majority of our offending behaviour programmes and, of course, all drug treatment courses and education are open to all offenders irrespective of whether they accept their guilt.

  150. The report focuses on you are doing more behaviour programmes, 1,400 to 6,000, but there is enormous regional variation in all sorts of areas. Are you looking to bench mark and push forward best practice so that there is some level of equal opportunity of recovery, if you like, wherever you happen to commit your offence?
  (Mr Narey) I think if I were to produce a map now which showed the distribution of those courses you would already see a step improvement from the time when this research was done.

  Geraint Davies: Thank you very much.

Mr Rendel

  151. Mr Narey, the last time you came before us, at least the last time I asked you any questions, the last question I asked you, got one of the most fascinating answers I have ever had. I asked you whether you thought that you would be able to save society any more money in the long-term if you could spend more money on educating those who were in prison and you said simply "yes" and you have repeated that in different ways a lot this afternoon, which is very interesting and encouraging. What is your evidence for that?
  (Mr Narey) Evidence based on international research of offenders leaving prison who have made educational improvements, about going into jobs and having reduced offending. Research from analysis based on huge samples in different jurisdictions suggests that improving education might reduce reoffending by between, I think, ten and 14 per cent typically.

  152. How much more could you spend and still make it cost-effective? You cannot go on spending forever, you will get to the point where you have done everything you usefully can.
  (Mr Narey) The reality now is other than for those aged 17 and under, who I think get a reasonable provision for education, I am spending not remotely enough for all other age groups. I could spend many millions more and I could spend it not just quickly but effectively.

  153. Do you have a figure of how much more you think you could spend and still be cost-effective?
  (Mr Narey) Just for the 18-20 age group alone in work that I have been doing very recently, not least with the Social Exclusion Unit, I think a figure of between 50 and 80 million a year would allow us to significantly improve the life chances of that age group by trying to replicate for them the improved regimes which we have already offered to those who are 17 and under. If you are 18 and a day you are going to get a much worse deal if you go to prison than if you are 17 and 51 weeks.

  154. The Government has a spend to save programme, are you covered by that at all? Can you get any money out of it?
  (Mr Narey) We have got some money from programmes such as that and we are currently bidding for some money which I hope will help us to expand education from the Capital Modernisation Fund, which is a very similar initiative. Overall, in terms of trying to compete for broad investment significant to improve prisons and to address the issues of reoffending then I have got to compete with all other Government services in the current spending review and I am making the best case that I can but it will be very difficult.

  155. You seem to think that your return on investment will be pretty high.
  (Mr Narey) I think it would be dramatic, I think we have demonstrated that. When you talk about the downstream effects, I think we can show through cost benefit analysis that turning somebody away from crime through the sorts of programmes we offer might offer a cost benefit of about three to one. I think the money invested, particularly on young people who might be offending, even if they grow out of offending, might be offending—

  156. What you seem to be telling us is that you have a project here on which you can get a three to one return and yet for some reason you are not currently able to get that money out of the spend to save programme.
  (Mr Narey) The position at the moment is although I have been able to dedicate significant investment in recent years to these programmes I do not believe I am doing much more than playing at the edges. I have demonstrated with one age group that we can make a dramatic difference and I would love the chance to do it with another age group but I would need significant investment in the current spending review.

  157. You said earlier in response to the Chairman that the sums spent are shockingly low. In fact, I think it was the Chairman who suggested that and you agreed with him.
  (Mr Narey) For those aged 17 and under I would agree with that.

  158. To what extent do you have the power to vary that or are the budgets set in a way that you cannot choose whether you spend more on education and less on other things?
  (Mr Narey) No, there is a great deal I can do. I would own up to the fact that we can and must continue to make the Prison Service a more efficient and effective service. I think I can demonstrate—

  159. Why are you not doing those things, giving more money to education?
  (Mr Narey) I would argue that I have. As I have explained, most of the money which has been dedicated to me for programmes, education and drug treatment, although it has been an exchange, I have found by making the service more effective. I have been reducing the budget in cash terms by one per cent year on year. This is my third year—

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