Research and analysis

Qualitative study of offender employment review: final report (RR784)

Findings from a qualitative study of offender employment services conducted across 4 areas across England and Wales. It includes recommendations to strengthen the services.



by Del Roy Fletcher, John Flint, Tony Gore, Ryan Powell, Elaine Batty and Richard Crisp

In 2009 the permanent secretaries of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Ministry of Justice (MOJ) commissioned a joint strategic review of offender employment services. The aim was to improve such support by reviewing current services offered by DWP and MOJ and improving services to become more coherent and effective without increasing existing resources. The recommendations of the review were announced in March 2010.

DWP commissioned the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University to undertake a qualitative study of offender employment services, with a specific focus on the progress made with the implementation of the recommendations of the joint review. The objectives of the study were to:

  • identify how well the recommendations of the review have been implemented
  • identify the extent to which the changes implemented have contributed to improved offender employment services
  • establish what further reforms should be developed to maximise the employment outcomes for offenders
  • assist in developing future policy for the offender group
  • consider the role of drug treatment services in the offender employment journey

The study was conducted across 4 case study areas covering England and Wales in both custodial and community settings.

In terms of the former, the study team has visited 12 prisons and young offender institutions. The research involved conducting 131 in-depth semi-structured interviews with policy leads, practitioners and offenders. This has included:

  • policy leads in DWP, Jobcentre Plus, MOJ and National Offender Management Service (NOMS)
  • Scottish policy leads
  • Employment and benefit advisers (EBAs)
  • prison resettlement staff
  • Jobcentre Plus staff
  • probation service staff
  • prisoners
  • offenders in the community
  • representatives from crime reduction charities

This report presents the main findings emanating from the study. It identifies how well the main recommendations have been implemented ‘on the ground’ in both case study prisons and the community, and assesses the extent to which changes have begun to improve offender employment services. It concludes with a series of recommendations to help further strengthen such services.