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Government "exploring" incentives for businesses that take on ex-offenders

27 February 2017

The Work and Pensions Committee has published the Government's response to its report on the support for ex-offenders leaving prison, which indicates that the Government has accepted the case made for many of the Committee's recommendations and is looking for ways to take them forward, including considering a range of ways to incentive employers to take on ex-offenders leaving prison. The suggestion of offering reduced National Insurance contributions to those employers is particularly "noted with interest".

Those leaving prison "turned out onto the street"

The Committee's report warned that former prisoners trying to make a new life for themselves walk over a cliff edge when they walk out the prison door. Finding a home and a job are absolutely central to preventing re-offending, which costs the criminal justice system alone £15 billion a year, without factoring in the costs of benefits, healthcare or the human costs of more crime. 

Yet those leaving prison are often "turned out literally onto the street with a £46 resettlement payment, weeks to wait for most benefits and little meaningful help in or out of prison to make the transition into work", and may feel no alternative but to return to crime.

Key points from the Government Response

Reduce NI contributions to incentivise employers

  • On incentivising employers to hire ex-offenders – the Government said it notes with interest the Committee's recommendation to reduce NI contributions for employers who actively hire ex-offenders. MoJ is going to explore a range of options to reward employers. The Ministry of Justice will also explore options for promoting 'ban the box' across both the Public and Private sector. 

Closer monitoring after resettlement

  • The Government agrees with the Committee's recommendation that Community Rehabilitation Companies should be required to track the outcomes of the prisoners they resettle. The Government will introduce enhanced measures of resettlement which include the recording of employment at the start and end of the sentence and at the end of the licence supervision period for any offender.

Better training for Work Coaches around issues of disclosure

  • The Government recognises that there are some gaps in the knowledge and capability of Work Coaches with regard to the particular needs of offenders and prison leavers. Officials are looking at ways to train Work Coaches around issues of disclosure.

Government explores options for advanced UC claims

  • It is disappointing that the Committee's recommendations on processing claims for Employment Support Allowance in prison and payment of Universal Credit on day one of release have not been accepted. It is encouraging, however, that the Government is exploring options for making advanced claims for UC in prison.

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The Government's response is generally very positive and they are looking for ways to take forward many of our recommendations. We have already welcomed the moves toward a comprehensive strategy for those leaving prison. But if the Justice Secretary is to get the numbers in prison down, the best route is to prevent the high re-offending rates. Once the Government adopts our Report in full it will have the basis of an effective strategy to cut the supply route to re-offending. We shall work with the Justice Secretary to this end."

Further information

Image: PA