Just three years ago, education in prisons was put under one authority, the Learning and Skills Council.

But now that the LSC is being abolished, the responsibility is to be split between two organizations. In the wake of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act, from this April onwards ,prisoners education and learning will be funded  through the Skills Funding Agency. However, for those in youth detention, the Government will fund education through the Young People’s Learning Agency from April, and then from September this will be funded through local authorities with funds allocated to them by the Young People’s Learning Agency. The YPLA will deal with those up to the age of 18 and the Skills Funding Agency from 18 onwards. Still with me?

The Government trumpets its investment in education in prison which has risen threefold from £57 million in 2001-02, to more than £175 million in 2009-10. So, since April 2000, spending on education for young people in custody has increased more than sevenfold. But there are clearly some worries over this new restructuring and who will have responsibility for what. Pity the poor contractors who have to deliver education in prisons having to cope with all this. Having dealt with one principal contractor they will have to deal now with a  number of different agencies, including different local authorities, for the same contract.

Lord Ramsbotham, the respected former chief prisons inspector,  wonders who  will be responsible for telling the YPLA and the SFA what they have to fund, so that provision is consistent for prisoners of the same type wherever they happen to be held in the United Kingdom  There is scope for considerable confusion here, he believes .For starters, who  will lay down who does what on a split-site young offender establishment, which has juveniles who will be under the YPLA, and subsequently local authorities, and young offenders under the SFA?. Recipe for confusion?  Is the Pope Catholic?

Meanwhile, Manchester College which won a number of the Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) contracts awarded by the Learning and Skills Council, in summer 2009 is busy making employees redundant, which is  raising some eyebrows. The College has received upwards of £2 million from the LSC to cover the costs of redundancies in OLASS contracts. These costs were ‘unforseen’ by the College during the tendering round. One wonders if these   costs had been  ‘foreseen’ and taken into account in the original bid whether   the Colleges  bid would have looked quite so competitive? A question no doubt its fellow bidders are now asking.  The Government publicly expresses its confidence in the Colleges ability to deliver its contractual responsibilities.


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