HC Deb 29 April 1999 vol 330 cc236-7W
Mr. Beith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to improve employment opportunities for ex-offenders; and if he will make a statement. [82454]

Mr. George Howarth

Improving offenders' employability and access to the job market is a priority for the probation service for 1999–2000. Probation services are actively involved in the delivery of Welfare to Work programmes, and developing strategies for generating employment, training and education opportunities for offenders, with a particular emphasis on literacy and basic skills provision. Over £3.1 million was spent by probation services in 1997–1998 in partnership with the voluntary sector on the provision of employment, training and education services for offenders.

Much work has already been done and is continuing to be done to assist offenders in gaining the skills and qualifications necessary to help them in their search for work. Funding has also been made available to probation services under the Crime Reduction programme to develop screening and tutoring programmes to improve the basic skills of offenders. The projects will pilot and evaluate new approaches with the aim of putting the most successful approaches into practice across the country.