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Reducing crime through learning and skills
Plans to reduce crime by improving help for offenders, and those at risk of offending, to meet their learning and skills needs were unveiled today.
Speaking during a visit to HM Young Offenders Institute Polmont, Skills Minister Keith Brown said the aim was to break the cycle of crime many people find themselves trapped in by providing offenders with more of the skills they need to live positive lives.
The plan will see efforts coordinated more effectively to support offenders, with key employment, skills and justice services working more closely together.
Although a pilot will be rolled out in a Scottish prison in the coming months, the measures go further than helping those already behind bars. The report also outlines how young people at risk of offending can receive the help they need before they pursue a life of crime.
The measures are included in the Scottish Government's response to the Options for Improvement report into Offender Learning published earlier this year.
Mr Brown said:
"We know that many people going through our courts and in to our prisons have disengaged from society and that this tends to start with disengagement from learning. The people who suffer from this the most are those in our communities who live with the consequences of crime on a day-to-day basis.
"Intervening at an early stage to address patterns of offending behaviour is a key aim for this Government. We must work together to stop young people disengaging from learning and engaging in offender behaviour. We must also work with those already in the justice system to encourage and support them to develop their learning and skills.
"The comprehensive package of measures outlined today reflects the Government's commitment - and that of key agencies - to do more to encourage people to turn their lives around, building on the substantial range of services already available."
Mr Brown today saw a new approach taken by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) in the way it addresses the learning and employability needs of 16 and 17-year-olds in custody.
HM Young Offenders Institute Polmont now has a dedicated residential hall, opened in November last year, which has been working to provide an all-round, individualised care via a range of integrated services.
The SPS aims to address learning needs in a way that is relevant and interesting to a group that has failed to thrive in a traditional school setting. The aim is to create a learning environment based on the Curriculum for Excellence and Getting It Right for Every Child, which will give the young offenders the skills they need to take advantage of future opportunities in life, leisure and work.
Some key services are already in place including access to learning and skills, healthcare, social work, Jobcentre Plus, psychology and some speech and language therapy.
Skills Development Scotland has also appointed a full time key worker/careers adviser who started in May, working across Polmont and Cornton Vale.
Derek McGill, Governor of Polmont Young Offenders Institution, said:
"We continue to find lower levels of numeracy and literacy in many young offenders. This contributes to a lack of self-esteem and limits employment opportunities which, when improved, can have a strong influence on reducing re-offending. Staff at Polmont work hard at encouraging take-up of education and skills training to significantly improve these areas.
"The national review of offender learning is helping SPS build relationships that will improve ways of working with other service providers out in the community to continue work with the offender on release. This is vitally important if we are to reduce the levels of recidivism. Staff in Polmont work with the other agencies to ensure effective continuity on release that can only benefit the offender and the community."