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Prisons: Arts and Education

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN HL1034, tabled on 16 June 2022

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to restore (1) education programmes, and (2) access to (a) training, and (b) the arts, for prisoners, where those have been restricted by (i) COVID-19, and (ii) staff shortages.

Answered on

30 June 2022

Staff recruitment was suspended from March 2020 until August 2020 whilst we implemented Covid-19 secure practices in response to Government guidelines on social distancing and non-essential travel. While this created a gap in our pipeline of new officers, once the process restarted, we used initiatives such as the accelerated launch of 60+ recruitment campaigns and the use of targeted overtime and mutual aid across prisons, to ensure establishments facing the greatest challenges received the most support.

Although face-to-face teaching was temporarily suspended due to safety concerns at the start of the pandemic, education continued via remote learning. With the pandemic National Framework for Prison Regimes and Services having been lifted on 9 May 2022, we are now getting increasing numbers of learners back in the classroom and participating in activities, like the arts, that support rehabilitation where it is safe to do so.

As set out in the Prisons Strategy White Paper, published on 7 December 2021, we are committed to improving education in prisons and we are delivering a Prisoner Education Service within this Parliament to raise prisoners’ levels of numeracy, literacy, skills and qualifications with the aim of helping them secure jobs upon release and drive down reoffending. This work includes investment in digital infrastructure, more training that delivers the skills employers need, more education experts to support Governors and improved support for prisoners with additional learning needs.