‘Mentally ill inmates not receiving employment support’

Prisoners with mental health problems are not being given the help they need to find work when they are released, a leading charity has claimed.

A policy paper by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health found that too many prison-based work preparation schemes excluded this group because they are not thought to be ready for work.

The paper, Securing employment for offenders with mental health problems, said having a job was the biggest single factor in cutting the reoffending rate.

However too many prisons put too much emphasis on learning skills, but not enough on what helped people find and keep work such as forming direct links with employers or providing support after release.

Individual placement and support

The centre called for a wider adoption of schemes that featured the core principles of individual placement and support, a model of employment support which involves helping people secure paid jobs and providing in-work support for employer and employee for as long as they need it.

The paper highlighted some schemes that are developing “promising” new approaches. Some get prisoners into work using release on temporary licence provisions, while others employed former offenders as life coaches or mentors, for example the Peer Advisor project run by St Giles Trust.

Sainsbury Centre employment programme director Dr Bob Grove warned: “Only a third of released prisoners have a job or a place in training or education.

Work is biggest factor in cutting reoffending

“Yet having a job is the single biggest factor in reducing reoffending. The vast majority of prisoners have mental health problems. Yet many are routinely excluded from vocational activities in prison because they are assumed not to be capable of working.

“This is a massive waste of human potential. Ineffective employment support inside and outside prison is leaving many thousands of people out of the labour market and at high risk of offending again.”    

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