Report into Learning and Skills provision by the Northern Ireland Prison Service

A collaborative Ministerial approach should seek to improve delivery of education and skills provision in Northern Ireland’s prisons as it continues to deteriorate.

Dr Michael Maguire, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice Inspection and Noelle Buick, Chief Inspector of the Education and Training Inspectorate, have today called for a ‘vigorous’ joint ministerial (Department of Justice and the Department for Employment and Learning) approach to improve the Northern Ireland Prison Service’s provision of learning and skills by outsourcing its delivery; developing a managed service solution for prison IT systems and appointing a senior manager to oversee the role of learning and skills.
“While there have been pockets of excellence and innovative practice inspectors found that the situation continues to deteriorate and that is unacceptable,” said Dr Maguire. “One has to remember that the provision of learning and skills in our prisons is a major element in the rehabilitation of prisoners with a view to reducing reoffending.
“If that provision is inadequate in any way then the system not only lets the prisoners down but wider society as a whole. With more than 60 per cent of prisoners below the minimum required level in their essential skills of literacy and/or numeracy, too few are being helped to address their deficits.”
The Chief Inspectors urged Ministers to consider outsourcing more of the education and training for prisoners. This could be done by either public of private sector providers.
“Effective collaborative partnerships with external providers an important part of the way forward, in particular the delivery of Essential Skills within the unique context of a prison. Collaborative partnerships also offer the Northern Ireland Prison Service a range of options which would prepare prisoners much better for competing in the employment market upon release,” they said.