£2.5bn fund to prepare female prisoners for employment

Employment Minister Priti Patel has launched a £2.5 billion European Social Fund (ESF) programme at Styal prison in Cheshire, aimed at helping to prepare female prisoners for the world of work.

The programme will enable trained employment mentors to go into the prison to provide inmates with support and address challenges, such as addiction, mental health issues and lacking literacy skills, that might stop them entering employment when they leave prison.

The project is part of an £18 million ESF investment in the north-west being carried out by the National Offender Management Service.

Patel said: “There is no better place to launch this funding than HMP Styal, where the money is already having such a positive effect. The funding announced today will support countless projects which are reaching out to people just like this one. It is an inspirational example of how the funding can change lives and move people closer to employment.

“The positive impact of the ESF programme will be felt across the entire country and is good news for communities, helping to maximise support for jobs and growth.”

During the visit to Styal prison, the employment minister met with some of the inmates of the prison, case managers and ESF stakeholders. Patel also held a conference aimed at getting more people from disadvantaged groups into work, which was attended by employers such as the AA, Greater Manchester Police and the Co-op Bank. Companies at the conference debated ways in which they could draw on the skills and experiences of ex-offenders, care leavers and the long-term unemployed.

Patel added: “Groups like ex-offenders and people leaving care have more than most to prove and can make fantastic employees. Evidence shows they go the extra mile to secure results, stay in a job for longer, have a strong commitment to their employer and take less time off work. It’s not just about transforming lives – it’s also good business practice.”

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous said: “As we reform our prison estate, we are committed to providing prisoners with education, work and an opportunity to redeem themselves. That way we can reduce reoffending, cut crime and keep our streets safer.

“Providing meaningful training which offers prisoners a real opportunity to turn their lives around, develop skills and a real work ethic are key elements of helping prisoners find a job on release.”