There are approximately 8,200
prisoners in Scotland's prisons and 560 young offenders. Most
of these are on short-term sentences. Moving from the justice
system into quality, sustained employment can be a profound
challenge for many. To illustrate this point, UK statistics
indicate that 75%
of ex-offenders have no job on release.
Having a job is one of the most effective means of preventing
reduces the probability of re-offending by 33-50%) but
offenders face a number of barriers re-engaging with the labour
market. These barriers include:
- No or low qualifications.
- Poor basic skills - e.g. literacy and numeracy.
- Poor or incomplete work histories with little experience of
- Low self-confidence.
- Perceived or actual discrimination from employers and
- Impact of criminal record limiting jobs available to them.
- How to disclose a criminal record to employers as
constructively as possible.
- Health and/or substance misuse problems.
Policies and Interventions
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) sets out to improve
the rehabilitation prospects of people who have been convicted of a
criminal offence, served their sentence and have since lived on the
right side of the law. The general rule is that, once a conviction
is spent, the convicted person does not have to reveal it and
cannot be prejudiced by it. This means that if an ex-offender whose
convictions are all spent is asked on a job application form, or at
a job interview, whether they have a criminal record they do not
have to reveal or admit its existence. Moreover, an employer cannot
refuse to employ someone or dismiss someone because of a "spent"
for Growth aims to make the transition into quality, sustained
employment easier and reduce the chances of re-offending. Since it
was established in 2008, the
Reducing Reoffending Programme (RRP) has been one of the
Scottish Government's major change initiatives in the Justice
sector. It has delivered a range of cross-organisational projects
aimed at reducing rates of reoffending, and so reducing levels of
crime and victimisation, and reducing the resultant costs to
society and the economy. The Reducing Reoffending Programme
recognises that an individual's ability to get and retain
employment can be a significant contributing factor in reducing
their risk of re-offending.
The second phase of RRP (RRP2) will run from 2012 to 2015, and is
undertaking a number of initiatives which will focus on ensuring
that there are effective and efficient adult community justice
services in place across Scotland. In particular, the RRP2
Throughcare and Services project will be examining the
effectiveness of various forms of support and guidance available to
offenders as they complete custodial and community sentences.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) continues to develop its
employability and learning strategy in a way that maximises the
scope for partnership working and, importantly, helps offenders
develop employability skills. In particular, the service is working
closely with the Scottish Government, Skills Development Scotland,
the Department for Work and Pensions, third sector agencies and its
contracted learning providers to progress a range of key strategic
aims. These include:
- Ensuring that employment, education and training continue to be
considered as key features of an individual's case management
- Increasing the number of prisoners undertaking purposeful
activity and work during their custodial sentence.
- Strengthening links to employer organisations and increasing
the number of prisoners gaining work experience placements prior to
- Developing a comprehensive package of wider ranging and
accredited employability skills including life skills and
communications that will have external currency with employers and
In supporting ex-offenders towards and into employment, good
practice suggests the need to:
- Ensure a client-centred approach is adopted that focuses on
individuals' talents and potential, rather than their
- Use an appropriate assessment tool to establish baselines and
to set client determined goals.
- Position the role of the 'consistent trusted adviser' at the
heart of the service - particularly for those leaving
- Offer a genuinely integrated service to meet client support
needs and fully explore the opportunities to embed employability
within community-based sentences.
- Look for new and creative ways to engage employers.