Written answers

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Employment Support Services

12:00 pm

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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Question 220: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if programmes have been developed to assist persons who have previously been in prison to access employment opportunities; the number of participants; and the success rate in progressive and placement in employment. [44412/09]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I can advise the Deputy that there are three programmes which have been developed to assist persons to access employment who have previously been in prison. These programmes are run in partnership between Business in the Community Ireland (BITC) and the Probation Service or the Irish Prison Service. They are: The Linkage Programme; The Prison Project and The Mentoring Service.

The Linkage Programme The Linkage Programme prepares, plans, and implements training and/or employment placement for ex-offenders referred to the programme by the Probation Service.

Since its inception in February 2000 and up to October 2009, the Probation Service made a total of 9204 client referrals to the Linkage Programme. Of that number, 5,755 or 74% engaged with the programme. Of those who engaged, 3988 or 69% were placed in employment settings. Furthermore, Linkage Training & Employment Officers (TEOs) made a total of 6,429 or 112% placements, meaning that some clients, because of progression routes etc, were placed twice. It should be noted that, as well as community based referrals, these figures include referrals made through Linkage's inreach service to prisons in Ireland. In the current year, the Linkage Programme has been approved for and received €1.47m in funding from my Department.

The Prison project

The Prison Project is an employment gateway project which grew out of the success of the Linkage Service. It has been in operation since 2007 and is funded by the Irish Prison Service. The Prison Linkage Service employs three TEOs operating in Mountjoy( The Dochas Centre; St. Patrick Institution; The Training Unit; ), the Midlands Prison and Portlaoise Prison. The service is based on 'guidance' and 'placement' in, or towards, employment but has the added dimension of 'resettlement' as prisoners are released to the community.

A key component of the Prison Linkage Service is that TEOs continue the service into the community, thereby offering throughcare in guidance and placement services to clients who become ex-prisoners. As such, the Prison Project is a natural complement to the Integrated Sentence Management (ISM) initiative currently being implemented by the Irish Prison Service. It is planned to develop the Prison Project in line with needs and as the resources become available.

To date, the Prisons project has received a total of 850 referrals from the various prison sources. Of those who engaged (670 or 79%), 150 (22%) were placed in training, education or employment while in custody, with a further 222 (33%) placed following release – a total of 55% placement rate, with the remaining numbers continuing to successfully engage with the Training & Employment Officers.

The Mentoring Service

The Mentoring Service is the newest of BITC's programmes. It is co-funded under Dormant Accounts Funding and by the Irish Prison Service and is a partnership between BITC and the Irish Prison Service that is still in its pilot phase. It has been operational for just over 6 months. The objective is to provide intensive support to prisoners on release from prison to enable them to access services that promote stability and desistance. Supported access to employment related services, e.g. training and education, is part of this process and in this sense the programme has an 'employability' remit. Currently the Mentoring Service operates in Castlerea and Cork Prisons with plans to extend it. The intensive nature of the service means caseloads are smaller than they are for other services but this is in line with the needs of many criminal justice clients.

Other Initiatives

In addition to the above BITC has also designed and delivered, in conjunction with the Probation Service, employment related training programmes for ex-offenders, developed a protocol with FAS to facilitate referral from the Probation Service and IPS and assisted in developing a fund to support ex-offenders into training and/or education, considered as incremental steps towards employment.

The Education Fund is an initiative driven by BITC for its sister organisation the Community Foundation for Ireland and the St. Stephen's Green Trust. The object is to provide small amounts of funding to ex-offenders who have been turned down by other sources. The primary objective is to support ex-offenders into some form of training and education that can ultimately lead to employment. The fund is new and set for its initial trial period at €15,000.

In addition to the Education Fund, there is also a Social Enterprise Exploration fund of €20,000 contributed by BITC. The purpose of this is to support the development of social enterprise ideas that further the employment prospects of criminal justice clients, and although new, the fund has already contributed to a feasibility study in recycling.


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