Pact welcomes Dame Sally Coates’ report into offender learning, and in particular, her clear-sighted recommendations on the crucial role played by family and relationship education, including parenting skills.

In the report, Dame Sally says:

"Education is more than a service provided by OLASS providers in classrooms or workshops. All areas of the prison regime should be considered suitable for learning. My vision for prison education is holistic. It includes Personal and Social Development (PSD), including behaviour programmes, family- and relationship-learning, and practical skills (e.g. parenting, finance, and domestic management)."

Pact was delighted to have contributed evidence to the review, sharing the views and experiences of service users, and referencing academic findings and the theoretical base for how stronger, stable family relationships can improve outcomes for accommodation, employment, education and training on release, and a reduction in the risk of re-offending.  Pact also welcomed members of Dame Sally’s team to observe our relationship group-work programmes in action, and we are delighted that the link between strong, positive relationships and desistance have been highlighted in the report:

"The panel has also seen education that supports healthy relationship and family ties. There is good evidence that strong family relationships can help support prisoners in desisting from crime and thereby reduce reoffending."

Pact has delivered relationship programmes in prisons for over a decade, and despite the huge popularity of the charity’s relationship and parenting programmes with prison governors, officers, prisoners and families, there has not until now been a clear policy framework for this work to be commissioned within the learning curriculum. Pact is therefore particularly pleased to see a recognition that there are some barriers that need to be overcome.  

"I would like to ensure there are no barriers to funding family and relationship-strengthening approaches as part of a broad education offer."

Commenting, Andy Keen-Downs, Pact CEO, had nothing but praise for Dame Sally’s report, but sounded a note of caution:

"We applaud Dame Sally Coates for her vision. She has removed the shackles from offender learning, opening up the curriculum so that we can develop learning solutions for the causes of offending, rather than simply focusing on job-skills.  For far too long, the offender learning curriculum has been too narrow and utilitarian, and has failed to recognise that if we genuinely want to enable prisoners to leave prison with a home, with hope, and a purpose, we need to do everything we can to equip them with the skills to live in healthy relationships, as partners, fathers, mothers and citizens."

For further comment or to find out more please call us on 0207 735 9535 or email us [email protected]