Meeting Needs?: The Offenders Learning and Skills Service
Giving offenders opportunities to improve their basic and vocational skills can enhance their prospects of getting a job and is a major part of the Government's policy for reducing re-offending. In 2003, Ministers decided that the Learning and Skills Council (the LSC) should take over responsibility for a new Offenders' Learning and Skills Service which, after piloting, the LSC rolled out across England in July 2006. Delivering learning and skills to offenders is challenging, because the operational requirements of the Criminal Justice System takes priority, and because offenders often have other problems such as mental health difficulties and dependence on alcohol or drugs. Nevertheless, the new Service set out to overcome many of these longstanding problems. In practice it has not succeeded. The National Audit Office's examination of prisoners' learning records showed that there was not record of assessment for a quarter of prisoners. Learning plans are frequently deficient and not recording progress. Also, although enrolment is voluntary, more could be done to motivate offenders to take up opportunities. There is currently no core curriculum and inconsistencies make continuation difficult when prisoners transfer between prisons or into probation. The prison service and education providers are not working adequately together and there is insufficient research to allow informed changes. On the basis of the NAO report the Committee took evidence from the LSC, National Offender Management Service & the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
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