Minister welcomes MoJ research showing PET learners more likely to find work

12 Jul 2018

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart has welcomed new research published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) today showing people in prison who have accessed distance learning through Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) are more likely to find work after release.

The research, carried out by the MoJ Justice Data Lab (JDL), compared people funded by PET to study in prison and a matched comparison group. The figures show that, in the first year out of prison, people funded by PET are more likely to be in employment and spend fewer days receiving out-of-work benefits.

Key findings:

  • PET beneficiaries are more likely to be employed during the one-year period after their release from prison – 39 per cent compared to 31 per cent of the comparison group. 
  • PET beneficiaries spend fewer days receiving out-of-work benefits in the first year out of prison – 125 days compared to 134 days for the control group.

The JDL report analysed the employment and benefits outcomes of nearly 6,000 people who studied courses or received art materials funded by PET.

The research provides significant evidence that education can improve prisoners’ chances of gaining work, with learners more likely to become earners. Some of the men and women PET have funded in prison have gone on to become mechanics, youth workers, gym instructors and university lecturers, benefitting their families, their communities and the economy.

The report has been welcomed by Prisons Minister Rory Stewart. He said:

“As our Education and Employment strategy sets out, we want prisons to be places of aspiration which propel offenders into employment.

“I want to congratulate the Prisoners’ Education Trust on these impressive results, which show the pivotal role education can play in helping offenders turn their lives around.”

Having been funded for an Open University Access course through PET, Egerton, 25, is now working as a Business Analyst in the financial sector and as a Project Facilitator at a leading social justice charity. He says:

"Managing to come out of prison with a qualification funded by PET was reaffirming to me, reinforcing my belief that I could achieve something even through difficult circumstances; but what really astounded me was how much employers really valued what I had achieved. They saw my qualifications as evidence that I was resourceful with time and able to navigate challenges; it showed them that I wasn't just wasting away in prison.

"A prisoner could be the next Albert Einstein if they were able to do a Physics degree or Alan Sugar if they were able to study business at a decent level. It is worth investing in that one person to make sure that not only can they change their own lives but so society at large can benefit from their untapped potential."

Neil, 36, is now working as a Personal Trainer for a national healthcare organisation, having been funded for a Sport, Fitness and Management course through PET. He says:

"After serving nearly 12 years, my fitness qualification made a massive difference to finding a job. It was hard at first but my knowledge helped me stand out when clients were seeking a personal trainer. I was 35 when I was released: it just proves that if you put the work in and learn, it is never too late to make something of yourself. It’s your mind-set and the confidence you gain from educating yourself that matter. Now I have a job I love and I earn a good wage."

Rod Clark, Chief Executive, PET says:

“Whether someone wants to become a plumber, manage a shop, or work in construction, they need qualifications that are often not provided by prisons. PET provides meaningful courses that complement both people’s individual interests and today’s job market – making a real difference to someone’s chance of finding work and therefore building a productive life away from crime.”

The report also shows that there are differences between those prisoners who get work with PET’s help and those prisoners from the comparison group who get work without it. The prisoners helped by PET were less likely to have been in work the year before conviction.

Finding employment is a crucial step in moving away from crime. This research is an extension of the original analysis conducted by the MoJ in 2015 which showed that prisoners helped by PET are less likely to reoffend than a matched comparison group (18% compared with 25%).

PET’s courses generally cost only a few hundred pounds and work with Pro Bono Economics showed the excellent return to society on the investment, based on reducing reoffending alone. This new research further strengthens the business case. People supported by PET not only cost society less by lower levels of reoffending on release, they also make fewer demands on out-of-work benefits and contribute more to the economy and taxation through employment.

Notes to Editors

  • The MoJ research matched the records of 5,842 recipients of PET help with 338,674 prisoners in the comparison group. Read a full report of the analysis.
  • This latest research is the JDL’s first test case to assess the impact of programmes on employment outcomes – drawing on data from the MoJ, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
  • PET beneficiaries who were in work on release were less likely to have been employed in the year before conviction - 57 per cent compared with 67 per cent of the employed subset of the comparison group.
  • For interviews or further information please call Calum Walker (PET), Communications Officer, on 020 3752 5677.
  • Since 1989, PET has supported prisoners to engage in rehabilitation through learning. The charity does this by providing advice and funding for around 3,000 people per year for courses in subjects and levels not generally available in prisons. PET also carries out research, informed by prison learners, to improve prison education policies. 
  • For more information please visit: www.prisonerseducation.org.uk.