Last week, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS) announced a Local Partnership Agreement setting out their commitment to work together to prepare people leaving prison to find employment. So far, four men’s prisons have signed Local Partnership Agreements.
Working Chance welcomes any initiatives which improve employment outcomes for women with convictions, and hopes that the contracts will be taken up by women’s prisons and their local branch of the DWP to ensure high-quality, consistent employability support and training across women’s prisons.
We know that employment is one of the best ways to reduce reoffending and improve outcomes for women with convictions, but needs to be delivered well to have the best results. Support must be gender responsive and trauma-informed to have lasting effect. Additionally, employability support must start within prison, or with probation for non-custodial sentences, if women with convictions are to stand a strong chance of finding a job with a criminal record.
We support a collaborative approach between the DWP and HMPPS to prevent women with convictions from falling through the cracks. However, we call for an increase in the number of Prison Work Coaches to deliver employability and benefits support in prisons – one Coach to a whole women’s prison does not give enough capacity to support every woman fully. It is also vital to ensure release on temporary license (ROTL) is used widely to get women into work while they are still serving a custodial sentence. Finally, routes into volunteering, apprenticeships and internships should be part of any employment initiatives. These measures can ensure a smooth transition into a job after release.
We look forward to more information about which prisons sign up to Local Partnership Agreements, and as the outcomes are published we will analyse the success of the partnerships and hope that their impact will extend to the women we seek to benefit.