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Coding to be taught in prison to help offenders return to the world of work

15 March 2019

Prisoners will be taught coding to prepare them for the world of work as part of plans to help marginalised groups become skilled in tech.

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CODE 4000, an organisation that works with carefully vetted offenders and has led a successful trial at HMP Humber, has been given new funding by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to expand its scheme to HMP Holme House and reach more than a thousand more offenders. 

The £100,000 award will also fund a new employment hub in Sheffield, providing support, mentoring and training for graduates once they have left prison, as the organisation looks to achieve its aim of developing a network of coding workshops in UK prisons. 

The programme is modelled on the Last Mile project in the San Quentin prison in California which has helped almost 500 offenders with a zero percent reoffending rate of participants. The national average reoffending rate in the US is 55 percent.

To tackle reoffending – which costs society around £15 billion a year – the Government has launched the Education and Employment Strategy which aims to create a system where each prisoner is set on a path to employment from the outset.

Minister for Digital, Margot James said:

“The Government is committed to stopping the cycle of reoffending and a valuable asset to prevent recidivism is employment.

“Equipping offenders with coding skills will help them into life-changing work and give them a path to a hugely rewarding career.

“We have a world-leading digital economy and this new funding will help keep people out of prison so they can give back to their local communities as well as be a boost for our tech businesses.”

Neil Barnby, Workshop Instructor, HMP Humber, CODE 4000 said:

“Code4000 workshops are reducing re-offending at a measurable rate, because we keep in touch with our graduates. We are constantly seeing success after success. When I started teaching in prisons I thought that if I could change just one life, turn one person away from crime then I have achieved something truly marvellous. 

“I look back on the years that I have been teaching coding in prisons and can see all the lives I have had a part in changing for the better. Not just the ex-offenders but their families and, more importantly their children. It is an enormous sense of achievement and with this funding I look forward to changing even more lives.”

Digital Skills Innovation Fund 

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More than £1 million will be used to fund regional and local initiatives to help people from underrepresented groups gain the skills they need for digital roles.

Programmes being funded include those targeted at helping women from disadvantaged backgrounds, people with autism and people living in lower socioeconomic areas. The aim is to help people get the skills to succeed in roles such as data analysts, programmers, software developers and digital marketers. 

The funding will see new training courses, workshops and seminars led by tech experts alongside a mentoring scheme tailored to businesses.

Research reveals only 19 percent of women make up the tech workforce and are underrepresented in the uptake of digital qualifications. While unemployed adults are five percent more likely to lack the basic digital skills than the national average.

The following Local Enterprise Partnerships will receive a share of the money to invest in their local communities: 

• West of England Combined Authority

• Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (D2N2) LEP working with Sheffield City Region and supported by Leicestershire LEP and Greater Lincolnshire LEP 

• Lancashire LEP

• Heart of the South West LEP

More regions to launch Digital Skills Partnerships

Local Digital Skills Partnerships (Local DSPs) bring together regional businesses, charities, local authorities and academics to increase the digital skills of individuals and organisations in their region. Three launched last year in Lancashire, Heart of the South West and West Midlands Combined Authority. 

Three more Local Digital Skills Partnerships will be set up in the South East; Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly; and Cheshire and Warrington. This takes the number of people with access to the programme to more than 10 million, boosting digital and technical skills, job opportunities and productivity across the regions.

More than 2.5 million free training opportunities, in areas such as basic online skills, cybersecurity and coding, have already been delivered though the Digital Skills Partnership.

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