Education and training for female offenders is to be given a boost today as Justice Minister Simon Hughes set out plans for a tailored curriculum in women’s prisons that will better meet women’s needs.
The new approach from the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will see each woman’s English and maths skills assessed within the first week of her prison sentence. Women will also be assessed for special educational needs. Female prisoners will have a tailored learning plan to meet their individual needs and will be offered a mix of ‘life skills’ and formal educational skills which will build on the established programmes already offered in women’s prisons.
The training will mean that female offenders are better equipped when they leave prison, have a greater chance of finding employment and are less likely to reoffend. It can also help with self-esteem and confidence issues. The MoJ will also work with education partners so women can continue their education and training on release.
Justice and Civil Liberties Minister Simon Hughes said:
“Putting in place the right services for female offenders is vital if we are to reduce reoffending. This is why we are providing a tailored curriculum for women to help them lead law-abiding lives.
“I want to see all women benefit from targeted education and training in prison which meets their needs. This will prepare them in the best way possible for eventual release and future employment opportunities.”
In 2013/14, 39 women gained a NVQ Level 2 in mentoring at Drake Hall prison – including 10 women who have trained to become peer mentors, working in a variety of support roles. For example, providing support in a classroom setting to encourage participation from offenders who may struggle with low self-esteem, confidence, anxiety and ‘failure’ issues.
The cost of the alternative curriculum will be met within existing budgets.
The changes are being launched as the Government introduces wide-reaching reforms to offender rehabilitation aimed at bringing down the stubbornly high reoffending rates which currently see more than 57 per cent of all offenders sentenced to less than 12 months go on to reoffend within a year of release.
This new approach will see a greater emphasis on through-the-gate support for offenders, including those on short sentences who currently get no statutory supervision on release.