Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Assessing Skills of Young Offenders
A personalised skills assessment is to be made available in prisons and in the community to identify offenders who will benefit from a programme of employment-focused learning and skills training to reduce re-offending.
Under a new system - the 'campus' model - selected offenders will receive tailored information, advice & guidance and be offered a range of skills training after completion of their assessment.
Training could include:
· language & key skills
· employer-led vocational skills
· enterprise & self-employment training
· work trials
· work experience and
· voluntary work with skills training
Two test bed regions, East of England and West Midlands, will take forward the initiative that will include:
· stronger links with employers
· closer working with voluntary and faith communities
· engaging employers sector by sector
· meeting regional skills shortages & recruitment difficulties by linking offender learning with local and city employment strategy needs
Announcing the test bed regions, Skills Minister Phil Hope said:
"Helping offenders develop skills and secure better jobs is central to the Government's aim of reducing re-offending.
There is a "sea change" underway in the learning and skills on offer to offenders.
Testing these innovative ideas to improve learning by offenders will significantly contribute towards improving skills and employment, and reducing re-offending, as outlined in our ambitious Next Steps document last year.
The test beds will build on the successes already achieved by the Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) whose work has overseen a significant increase in the education participation rate amongst offenders.
An external evaluator has been appointed to ensure that we get the best out of the work of the test beds, making sure that good practice and lessons learned are shared with stakeholder bodies involved in delivering offender learning and skills.
An innovation fund will be set up jointly between the Department for Education and Skills and the Ministry of Justice to ensure that ideas put forward by regions not allocated test bed status are also trialled.
This decision marks the culmination of the Next Steps design process.
It's now time to look forward to the next stage - putting ideas into action - and to make the vision of Next Steps a reality."
As well as developing and trialling the three core elements of the Next Steps proposals, the test beds will be involved with the whole agenda set out in the Reducing Re-Offending through Skills and Employment: Next Steps document, which was published in December 2006.
The external evaluator is provided under a collaborative venture between NatCen and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College, London.
Commenting on the announcement, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists said that ‘More is needed to improve young offenders’ communication skills if the DfES scheme to help them is to be truly successful’.
The RCSLT welcomes the announcement by the DfES of employment-focused learning and skills training to help young offenders, but says that without speech & language therapy input many will be unable to benefit.
According to the RCSLT, more than 60% of the 11,000-plus young offenders in institutions today lack the communication skills to take part in educational programmes, courses in behaviour & anger management, and initiatives designed to improve their thinking skills.
The RCSLT highlights the fact that 24,000 young offenders in England and Wales have a learning disability or difficulty which impacts upon their ability to cope with the prison regime.
RCSLT CEO Kamini Gadhok said that the DfES screening tool will fail to identify young people who lack communication skills: the very group they are trying to help and added:
“The RCSLT looks forward to working with the Department to develop a screening tool to detect learning disabilities and communication difficulties among children and young people on their first contact with the criminal justice system”.
The RCSLT comments reinforce Conservative MP John Bercow’s early day motion in April on Communication Difficulties and Young Offenders.
Reducing Re-Offending through Skills and Employment: Next Steps
Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS)
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists
BBC NEWS - Communication skills 'cut re-offending'
Read the former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Lord Ramsbotham’s, statement to the House of Lords on the value of speech and language therapy in prisons (scroll down to column 1447)
Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College, London
Launch of All Party Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties
Offender Learning for Employment
Unhealthy Young Offenders
Breaking Down Barriers to Learning
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