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Work Programme for Offenders

In summer 2011, in the wake of the riots across the UK, the Government announced that from March 2012 every offender being released from custody will be met at the prison gates by providers in the Work Programme who will make sure that those offenders as they leave prison will be put through a tough process so that they find work and stay on the straight and narrow.

Today DWP announced that the day one mandatory entry to the Work Programme follows a long preparatory project between the DWP and the Ministry of Justice to share, information about prisoner releases and benefit claims. This suggests that the initiative has little to do with the riots and more to do with a long term plan of integrating services, which is still a sensible approach but one which has disingenuously been attributed to the riots. The Ministry of Justice is also apparently preparing to pilot a reoffending outcome payment in the Work Programme.

JCP staff will now be working inside prisons to take claims for JSA which will enable entitlement to be triggered on release with referral to the Work Programme being an immediate consequence.  Offenders claiming JSA within 13 weeks of leaving custody will also be referred to the Work Programme.  Those receiving community sentences or who have previously been in prison for more than three months will be able to volunteer for the Work Programme 3 months into their JSA claim.

DWP have suggested that Work Programme providers will be able to start providing support and guidance about employment opportunities to prisoners while they are still in custody in preparation for release. With the security clearances required for such activity, this service may not be immediately apparent.  With the increased resource this calls for Work Programme providers may not be in a position for this to happen. The more likely outcome for those without an existing presence in prisons may be to work in partnership with other providers already working within prisons to join up service delivery with existing specialist provision. 

The change is expected to increase Work Programme participant by 33,000 in the coming year and then approximately 20,000 per year for the next few years.  Funding for this group will reflect the early access JSA funding rates with £5,600 being available for providers who support offenders to achieve sustained employment over two years.

There are already a wide ranging number of programmes for ex-offenders, such as the NOMS ESF provision to reduce offending.  The ESF programme already offers tailored support to help ex-offenders address barriers to employment and move towards long term training or employment opportunities.  Many Work Programme providers have already started to establish links with existing offender focused provision to ensure that there is a cohesive approach that will help them meet the challenge afforded by this change. 


6 March 2012 (updated)

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