YMCA England wins prisoner education contract

Katherine Demopoulos

YMCA England has secured £1.1m from the European Social Fund to educate prisoners in the south west and accommodate them on their release. The contract, which runs until December 2006, aims to reduce re-offending by making prisoners more employable.

Steven Fox, the YMCA's south west regional manager, said the cash will be shared equally between the seven adult prisons in the region, which will match-fund the amount they receive.

He said the contract specifies that 35 per cent of participants must go into full-time employment upon release, 10 per cent should be in further education or training, 15 per cent should have a New Deal interview, 20 per cent must be assigned a volunteer mentor and 8 per cent should have found accommodation.

He stressed, however, that soft targets and a change of attitude were equally as important as the hard numerical targets. "This is very much an employability project, not an employment project," he said.

The YMCA's hostels allow it to provide a joined-up service for prisoners and make it an attractive partner for the prison service, Fox added.

- See policy and politics, page 12.

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