Prisoners benefit from pound;30m

11th August 2006 at 01:00
Prison education has received a pound;30 million funding boost as the transfer of control to the Learning and Skills Council was completed.

A new Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) will be run by the LSC with the aim of reducing reoffending by 10 per cent over the next four years. But critics have warned that the new regime will not address fundamental flaws in prison education as long as offenders are shuttled between prisons during their sentence, interrupting their studies.

The pound;30m grant over three years comes from the European Social Fund and will supplement the annual pound;130m budget for prison education.

By integrating teaching for prisoners and mainstream education, the new service is intended to allow offenders to make a seamless transition from prison to learning in the outside world.

Government figures show that 59 per cent of prisoners reoffend within two years of release, costing the criminal justice system pound;65,000 plus Pounds 35,000 for every year in prison.

The University and College Union has raised questions about the experience of some of the contractors, such as A4E, which had no experience in prison education before the pilot of the new service last year.

However, the company said it has relevant experience in providing services for the disadvantaged and marginalised.

Jon Gamble, director of lifelong learning development at the LSC, acknowledged that prison transfers damaged offenders, chances for education but said the new service would address the issue.

He said: "Education and training has been proven to reduce re-offending rates, but too many prisoners experience fragmented learning as they move between prisons or re-enter the community. By providing personalised learning plans that travel with them, we can assist more offenders back into gainful employment."

But Anne Creighton, director of the Prisoner Education Trust, said prisons offered different courses so interruption was inevitable. "What's really needed is a scheme where prisoners are not transferred at all while they are on courses. This is critical, but no one is grasping that nettle," she said.

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