BRIEFING NOTE November 2011

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1 BRIEFING NOTE November 2011 Series briefing note 38 LEARNING AND SKILLS FOR OFFENDERS IN THE COMMUNITY 1. Introduction 2. Community Based Rehabilitation 3. Learning and Skills Provision for Offenders in the Community 4. Implications and Recommendations 5. Recommended further reading The City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development is an independent, not for profit research and development body which is committed to improving the policy and practice of work related education and training internationally. We work with organisations around the world - principally with policy makers, employers, practitioners and learners - to share knowledge and help to lead the debate on policy and practice, aiming to achieve our vision of a world in which all people have access to the skills they need for economic and individual prosperity. We are part of the City & Guilds Group. 1. INTRODUCTION Learning and skills programmes form a significant part of offender rehabilitation the world over. Often, the policy and research focus is on rehabilitation in custody, rather than community-based programmes. However in many countries the population of offenders in custody is dwarfed by the population of offenders in the community, for example on probation or serving community sentences. In England, for instance, the probation service typically has 250, ,000 individual caseloads of offenders at any one time, compared to some 85,000 in prison (figures based on 2010 data). Whether offender learners in the community are engaged as part of the mainstream education system, in separate programmes, or through a mixture of the two, the size of the population and the importance of education and training to rehabilitation make this a necessary area of consideration for policymakers, researchers, and practitioners. This briefing note addresses the issues faced in the provision of learning and skills services to offenders in the commmunity, drawing predominantly on the CSD research project Outside Chances: Offender Learning in the Community. General issues faced in the delivery of education and training to offenders in the community are discussed, alongside some principles of good practice in existing programmes.the note concludes with implications and recommendations for policymakers and practitioners. While these are based on evidence from research in England, implications and recommendations are of relevance to criminal justice systems internationally. 2. COMMUNITY BASED REHABILITATION PROGRAMMES 2.1 What is community based rehabilitation? While community based programmes for offenders are not always appropriate, for those deemed to be of sufficiently low risk to be managed outside of secure settings, such programmes have been shown to be cheaper, and in many cases more likely to cut reoffending rates, than short term prison sentences. LEARNING AND SKILLS FOR OFFENDERS IN THE COMMUNITY 1

2 Community based rehabilitation programmes can range in length (although individual programmes tend to be a maximum of 12 months). Such programmes also typically involve multiple requirements and rehabilitative services. These requirements and services can cover areas including. Risk management focussing on ensuring offenders do not represent a serious risk to public safety or to themselves, for example through supervision and where appropriate, curfews, prohibition from certain activities, and exclusion from certain areas. 1 Education, training and employment support - often in the form of basic literacy, numeracy, employability skills and entry level vocational training, coupled with careers advice and guidance. Restorative justice activities, such as community service or payback schemes under which offenders work unpaid in communities to make amends for any harm they have done. Physical and mental healthcare. Drug and alcohol treatment. Housing support including resettlement advice, support in securing references for housing tenancies. Financial guidance, for example how to access benefits and manage debt. Behavioural therapy and counselling. Supporting family relationships. 2.2 The returns on investment to community based rehabilitation The costs of managing offenders outside prison are usually lower. In England, an individual prison place costs on average 45,000 per year, while each new prison place costs 170,000 to build and maintain (2010 figures). 2 By comparison, community based sentences and interventions in England typically cost between 3,000 and 12,000 per year. The Howard League for Penal Reform calculate that a prison place costs on average 12 times more than a probation or community service order. 3 At the same time, offenders serving community based sentences are more likely to retain and build on links to employment. Although it is difficult to establish clear causal links between employment and lower rates of reoffending, employment is widely recognised as an important contributing factor to preventing crime, and to reducing reoffending. The UK Social Exclusion Unit found that having a job can reduce the likelihood of reoffending by between a third and a half. 4 In part due to the stronger links to employment, community based programmes do tend to have a higher rate of success in reducing reoffending than programmes of similar length based in prisons. Much of this may be attributed to lower risk offenders being more likely to be given community sentences, however even where this is controlled for, community based programmes tend to have better outcomes than short term prison sentences. The Matrix Knowledge Group conducted an assessment of the impact of different interventions covering community and prison programmes that included a range of different services, such as drug treatment, vocational education and training, surveillance and behavioural intervention. The total savings to the taxpayer and to society (taxpayer savings plus lower victim costs) were then calculated, based on the impact of different programmes to reducing reoffending, minus the costs of service delivery. Figure 1 (see overleaf) provides an overview of these savings. The Prison with educational/vocational intervention category includes education and employment support programmes delivered both in custody and post release. 1 Howard League for Penal Reform (2006) Community Sentences Cut Crime Factsheet, Howard League for Penal Reform, UK. 2 Prison Reform Trust (May 2010) Prison Briefing Prison Reform Trust, UK. 3 Howard League for Penal Reform (2006) Community Sentences Cut Crime Factsheet, Howard League for Penal Reform, UK. 4 Social Exclusion Unit (July 2002) Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners Cabinet Office, UK. LEARNING AND SKILLS FOR OFFENDERS IN THE COMMUNITY 2

3 Figure 1: Overview of the cost savings for offender rehabilitation interventions, compared with prison. (Source: Matrix Knowledge Group, 2008) 5 3. LEARNING AND SKILLS PROVISION FOR OFFENDERS IN THE COMMUNITY The learning and skills needs, and aspirations of offenders in the community The majority of offenders are likely to have had negative experiences of education and training. These negative past experiences often form a major barrier to engagement in education and training programmes as well as other rehabilitation initiatives, resulting in: Offender stigmatisation of education and traditional learning environments in particular; Difficulty in understanding the reasons for engaging in learning; Reluctance to disclose educational needs; An inability to communicate effectively with service providers. Illustrating the scale of these barriers, a report by the National Association of Probation Officers indicated that 85% of offenders in the Probation Service s caseload have experienced either low educational attainment, learning difficulties, have problems expressing themselves or understanding what is said to them 6. Effective learning and skills programmes for offenders therefore require significant investment in learner assessment, initial and continuing Information Advice and Guidance, and coordination with other rehabilitation interventions. Such programmes have also been found to have a greater chance of success when learner aspirations and strengths are emphasised. This can be as simple as shifting conversations with offenders from what do you need? and what can t you do?, to what are you good at, and what would you like to be good at?. 7 While many offenders are likely to say they don t need anything, practitioners may have more success in both identifying learning requirements, and engaging offender learners, when encouraging offenders to discuss what they want to do, and how education and training can be used to help them achieve personal goals. 5 Matrix Knowledge Group (2008) The economic case for and against prison: Update November 2008 Matrix Knowledge Group, UK. 6 Napo (2009) Literacy, Language and Speech Problems amongst individuals on probation or parole, Napo, London 7 Canton, R., J. Hine, J. Welford (2011) Outside Chances: Offender Learning in the Community City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development, London. LEARNING AND SKILLS FOR OFFENDERS IN THE COMMUNITY 3

4 Peer learning and mentoring approaches offer another potentially valuable approach to engaging with offenders and developing their skills in a relatively cost effective way. Offenders who have already been engaged in education and training can be helpful in supporting the learning of others, while simultaneously developing their own confidence, and the core soft skills needed for employability, such as the ability to communicate effectively and work with others. Mainstream education, separate education, or a mixture of the two? Unlike offenders in prison, offenders in the community should, in principle, be able to access mainstream education. However a combination of offender perceptions of education, public perceptions of offenders, and the conditions of community based sentences, can all but close off mainstream education to some offenders. 8 In these circumstances, offenders in the community will either require additional support to access mainstream education and training, or separate education and training programmes tailored to the specific circumstances of a rehabilitation programme. While mainstreaming is generally seen as an important way of ensuring offenders get the high quality education and training that will help them into the labour market and away from criminal activity, such policies are likely to be ineffective when they are not balanced with tailored programmes and additional support and guidance services. What courses are provided in rehabilitation programmes? The majority of offender learning and skills provision is at basic or entry level. This is by and large a reflection of the educational levels of the general offender population. Programmes typically combine literacy, numeracy and ICT training with social and employability skills development. Vocational courses geared towards accrediting learners for work in blue collar jobs, for example in construction and manufacturing are common, as are courses that prepare learners for self employment. 9 Courses that are modular, short term, and run on flexible or part time schedules are usually found to be more appropriate to the structure of rehabilitation programmes, and to the needs of offender learners. 10 Such courses can also be supplemented with advice and guidance on job applications, for example how to disclose details of a criminal record to potential employers. 11 One major challenge with such programmes is ensuring progression. Provision is often found to centre on lower level courses targeted at the majority of offender learners, at the expense of the higher level courses that employers are most likely to value, and that may be appropriate to a smaller, albeit substantial number of offenders. 12 Linking up with employment services, and with other rehabilitative services The many different types of practitioner involved in rehabilitation (probation officer, healthcare worker, trainer etc) will have different priorities, and different levels of awareness of the other areas involved. A probation officer (typically the first point of contact for an offender in the community, and therefore responsible for referring on to different services), for example, is likely to prioritise risk management, while their understanding of educational needs, and where education fits in to rehabilitation, may be limited. While teachers and trainers may well identify the positive impact learning can have on an offender s ability to manage their own rehabilitation, for example by being able to keep appointments or by moving them away from negative peer groups and into a positive learning environment, probation officers are less likely to be aware of the links. In cost-saving and efficiency drives policymakers often work to ensure resources are focussed on frontline services teachers teaching, police policing and probation officers managing those in probation. Where the focus is too narrow and does not factor in time and resources for coordination and communication between different service providers, however, frontline services are unlikely to be as efficient or effective. Effective coordination and communication requires time and money, as well as the clear delineation of responsibilities amongst the parties involved. 8 Canton et al. (2011) Ibid. 9 DIUS, (2007), The Offenders Learning and Skills Service (OLASS): A brief guide. 10 Canton et al. (2011) Ibid. 11 Learning and Skills Council (2004) Information, Advice and Guidance Supporting Offenders in Custody and in the Community Department for Education and Skills, UK 12 Canton et al. (2011) Ibid. LEARNING AND SKILLS FOR OFFENDERS IN THE COMMUNITY 4

5 Service providers interviewed in Outside Chances frequently expressed the opinion that their counterparts in other service areas were unaware of the education and training options available to offenders, the potential benefits of these programmes, and how offenders should be referred and guided towards such programmes. This was largely down to narrow performance measures, large work loads and limited resources, all of which push practitioners towards the delivery of narrow services that do not fulfil the broader requirements of effective rehabilitation. 4. RECOMMENDATIONS Make the business case for rehabilitation and secure public buy-in Community based sentences that incorporate education, training and employment support can be cheaper and more effective at reducing reoffending than custodial sentences. However, public buy-in is vital, both for the early steps in rehabilitation programmes, and for reintegrating ex-offenders into communities and into employment. The public, either as taxpayers, as members of local communities, or as employers, must be convinced that rehabilitation is a worthwhile investment and that it is in their interests to include ex-offenders as employees or as community members. Policymakers should lead the way by supporting programmes that cut reoffending and therefore the public costs associated with it, then ensuring the public are made aware of the benefits, through promotional campaigns for example, illustrating the value of ex-offenders as skilled employees. Focus on the positives, and make offender learners active participants in rehabilitation Establishing confidence and aspiration in offender learners is as important a task as any in the rehabilitation process. These are the building blocks of offender engagement in rehabilitation. While effective learner assessment is a resource intensive process, altering the terms of discussion with offenders towards the positives does not require any investment, simply the sharing of good practice between practitioners. Inclusion of offenders and ex-offenders as peer teachers and mentors is another highly cost effective way of aiding education and training, and rehabilitation. Practitioners and policymakers should identify regulations that act as barriers to peer mentoring and teaching, and consider how to make these barriers less significant. Provide additional support on top of mainstream education and training The majority of offenders and ex-offenders are unlikely to access mainstream education and training without additional support. The types of support required will range from face to face careers advice and guidance, to informal or preparatory education and training, to programmes delivered on site as part of community orders. Additional incentives may also be required, such as including attendance at training in the conditions of a community sentence, or in eligibility requirements for benefits. A mixture of support and incentives, along with a clear emphasis on the importance of the learner voice, is likely to result in better levels of learner engagement and attainment. Ensure links between different service providers Education, training and employment services are typically part of a broader programme of rehabilitation for offenders. Policymakers must factor in the need to coordinate separate services, in addition to targeting resources and performance measures solely on the outcomes of separate services. Learning and skills providers, and other service providers, must have clear responsibilities for working proactively with each other, and the time and resources to build a shared understanding of the different rehabilitation services. Training providers must be able to proactively work with and promote their offer to probation services. Failure to do so is likely to result in a set of isolated, narrow services at risk of duplicating activities on the one hand and failing to identify the specific rehabilitative needs of offenders on the other. Link up with education and training in prisons. Most criminal justice systems feature two way flows between the offender populations in custody and in the community. The links between custodial programmes and community based programmes are therefore crucial. This goes for education and training as it does for risk assessment, health and drug therapy and so on. Without such links, offender learning progress can stall, education and training programmes may be repeated needlessly and a large LEARNING AND SKILLS FOR OFFENDERS IN THE COMMUNITY 5

6 amount of resources effectively wasted. Online systems for sharing information on learner assessments and learner progress between practitioners in and out of prison should therefore be viewed as a cost effective long term investment. Those in charge of funding learning and skills provision may also wish to award joint contracts for provision in prison and in the community, to ensure the two are joined up, and present a coherent offer to individuals. 5. RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING Canton, R., J. Hine, J. Welford (2011) Outside Chances: Offender Learning in the Community City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development, London. City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (2011) Outside Chances: Offender Learning in the Community Summary Report City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development, London. City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (2008) Education and Training in Prisons Series Briefing Note 12. Joe Shamash, November LEARNING AND SKILLS FOR OFFENDERS IN THE COMMUNITY 6

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