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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Scheme unveiled to cut unemployment among ex-prisoners


In a bid to tackle high unemployment levels among people with criminal records, former prisoners will now have to join the coalition government’s Work Programme immediately on their release or lose benefits.

At the moment, ex-offenders are not forced to join the scheme until they have been out of jail and claiming JobSeeker’s Allowance for at least nine months.
But under plans unveiled today, they will now be placed straight onto the Work Programme, which is targeted at the long-term unemployed or those at risk of becoming so.
Jobcentre Plus staff will process their benefit claims and start providing employment advice while they are still inside, but any refusal to take part in the scheme will see their benefits being docked.
The government said that the aim of the move was to provide about 30,000 former criminals per year in England, Scotland and Wales with the specialist help required to make them more employable and cut reoffending rates.
Prisons minister Crispin Blunt explained: “Getting ex-prisoners into work at the earliest opportunity will help them stop reoffending. Referring offenders to the Work Programme straight from custody will ensure that they get help and support to find work as they leave custody, when they are currently most likely to start reoffending.”
The government’s research has revealed that one in three JobSeeker’s Allowance claimants has a criminal record, while about half of all ex-offenders were still on benefits two years after being released from prison in 2008.
Employment minister Chris Grayling said: “Getting former offenders into work is absolutely crucial to tackling our crime challenge. The rate of reoffending in Britain is far too high and we have to reduce it.”
Work Programme providers have been told that they will be given £5,600 each time they succeed in getting an ex-prisoner into work and help keep them there for more than two years. Suppliers include scandal-hit A4e, whose founder Emma Harrison resigned as the government’s back-to-work tsar last month amid accusations of fraud at the firm.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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