The government is launching a major overhaul of the employment support prisoners receive when they leave jail.
Everyone leaving prison and claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance benefits will be immediately referred on day one to the government’s work programme, where they will receive specialist support to get them into employment as quickly as possible.
This is the start of a new push to get former offenders back into work and to prevent reoffending and make them contribute to society. Additionally Jobcentre Plus staff will now process benefit claims in prison streamlining the benefits process, making immediate mandation to the work programme possible and ultimately reducing the temptation to reoffend.
The plan follows a long preparatory project between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice to share, information about prisoner releases and benefit claims. The Ministry of Justice is also preparing to pilot the integration of a reoffending outcome payment into the work programme, which will further improve employment outcomes, as part of a wider programme of pilots to reduce reoffending on a payment by results basis.
Work programme providers will receive a fee of £5,600 if they succeed in placing a former offender into work, and help them stay in employment for over two years. Work programme providers will be able to start providing support and guidance about employment opportunities to prisoners while they are still in custody in preparation for release.
Figures compiled by the two departments for England and Wales, showed that one third of all of those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) have criminal records, and 28 per cent for Employment Support Allowance. Of those leaving prison 75 per cent of offenders claimed an out of work benefit within two years.
Two years after being released from prison in 2008, 47 per cent of offenders were on out of work benefits. Offenders claiming JSA on release from prison in 2008 spent 40 per cent more time on benefits over then next three years than the average claimant.
In total 26 per cent of the 4.9 million open claims for out-of-work benefits were made by offenders who had received at least one caution or conviction between 2000 and 2010.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling said:
‘Getting former offenders into work is absolutely crucial to tackling our crime challenge. The rate of reoffending in Britain is far too high, and we have to reduce it. In the past we just sent people out onto the same streets where they offended in the first place with virtually no money and very little support. We’re now working to change that.’
Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt said:
‘Getting ex-prisoners into work at the earliest opportunity will help them stop re-offending. Referring offenders to the work programme straight from custody will ensure that they get help and support to find work as they leave custody, when they are currently most likely to start re-offending. By enabling them to pay their own way sooner rather than later through immediate entry to the work programme, we will break the cycle of crime earlier for more offenders, which is in the interests of us all.’
Notes to editors
Prisoners who do not claim JSA before leaving custody, but who subsequently claim Jobseeker’s Allowance within 13 weeks after release, will also be mandated to the work programme.
As well as more employment support, prison leavers will also have to meet additional requirements and engage with the jobs market in order to continue receiving benefits. Individuals who do not co-operate with the work programme providers to get work will be sanctioned and will lose benefits.
Day one access to the work programme will be available in England, Scotland and Wales.
For further queries - Ministry of Justice press office 020 3334 3536