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Help young offenders to get jobs – Minister


Education and Employment Minister Malcolm Wicks today launched new careers guidelines to help deter young offenders from re-offending after leaving prison.

Speaking to prison governors, careers services and college staff at a Prison Service College near Rugby, Mr Wicks said: " Improving the employability of young offenders after they leave prison is crucial to prevent re-offending. We must stop the young offenders of today becoming the hardened criminals of tomorrow."

Malcolm Wicks launched two good practice documents - one for prison governors the other for careers services - aimed at raising the quality of careers education and guidance given to young offenders in custody up to the age of 21.
He said the problem underlying juvenile offending was illustrated by the fact that over half of offenders aged under 18 have a history of local authority care or contact with social services and one in five have lived independently.

He said: "These youngsters have often been failed by their families, by the education system, by care and failed too by the prison service. There are answers. Education and training to boost employability, the back-up of the youth support service and the Learning Gateway. And the good practice guidelines I am launching today."

The documents are designed to bring about better working between Prison Service and Careers Services by introducing:

* specialised training for staff in careers education and guidance;
* clearly defined management support;
* comprehensive service level agreements with careers companies;
* written careers education and guidance policy statement tailored to each establishment.

Mr Wicks said: "These documents will enable better co-operation between the agencies which help young offenders, especially the Careers and Prison services. A survey by the Careers Service National Association shows many inmates don’t get access to careers guidance yet young offenders in custody need education and guidance most. The majority of young offenders have dropped out of education and over half had been excluded from school and most had also truanted.

"Two thirds have no educational qualifications or were unemployed before being sent to custody. The most sobering statistic is that 85 per cent of young offenders re-offend upon release, 70 per cent within the first year.

"We must provide young offenders with the education and advice to improve their chances of finding work. There is now a pressing need for all agencies to work together because from April 2000, the most vulnerable young offenders will be held in 13 institutions of the new Juvenile Estate. In the past they have been held in adult prisons. From April it should be easier for education and careers guidance providers to focus on young offenders and their prospects after they return to society.".


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