The government has announced that companies will now be given £5,600 for every ex-offender who they employ, and subsequently keep on for more than two years.
Employment minister, Chris Grayling, announced that prisoners who, on leaving jail, claim job-seekers allowance will be referred to a new and improved Work Programme — with their benefits being removed if they refuse to cooperate.
The current Work Programme, under which private and voluntary sector providers compete for contracts to place the long-term unemployed in work, is offered to those who have been unemployed for between nine and twelve months.
Now ex-offenders, who go on to benefits, will be placed straight on to the Work Programme on leaving prison. It is hoped that this move will reduce the rate of re-offending, and reduce the time which ex-prisoners spend on benefits.
Minister Chris Grayling said: “Getting former offenders into work is absolutely crucial to tackling our crime challenge. The rate of reoffending in Britain is far too high and we have to reduce it.
“In the past we just sent people out on to the same streets where they offended in the first place with virtually no money and very little support. We’re now working to change that.”
Figures show that ex-inmates have the highest rate of joblessness, with half still being on benefits two years after leaving jail.
This change in policy means that firms will be able to begin advising and supporting inmates, about employment opportunities before they are released.
Whilst potentially enabling unemployed inmates to find employment, one expert warned that “The government will need to be careful that employers are not just in it to make money. They will need to make sure that the employers are well-educated about the issues of employing ex-offenders and they are committed to employing them.”