06/03/2012 06:29 GMT | Updated 06/03/2012 06:35 GMT

Prisoners To Receive Job Help And Have Benefits Fast Tracked Upon Release

Prisoners are to receive specialist support to help them find work when they completed their sentence, the government has announced.

Additionally prisoners' benefit claims will be processed while they are still in jail so they will immediately join the Work Programme when they are released.

Ministers said the aim was to help prisoners in England, Wales and Scotland find a job as quickly as possible and to stop them reoffending.

Everyone leaving prison and claiming jobseeker's allowance will immediately be referred to the government's Work Programme.

Official figures for England and Wales showed that half of ex-offenders were on out-of-work benefits two years after being released from prison in 2008.

Employment minister Chris Grayling said: "Getting former offenders into work is absolutely crucial to tackling our crime challenge. The rate of reoffending in Britain is far too high and we have to reduce it.

"In the past we just sent people out on to the same streets where they offended in the first place with virtually no money and very little support. We're now working to change that."

Prisons minister Crispin Blunt said: "Getting ex-prisoners into work at the earliest opportunity will help them stop reoffending.

Referring offenders to the Work Programme straight from custody will ensure that they get help and support to find work as they leave custody, when they are currently most likely to start reoffending.

"By enabling them to pay their own way sooner rather than later through immediate entry to the Work Programme, we will break the cycle of crime earlier for more offenders, which is in the interests of us all."

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Far too many people leave prison jobless, homeless and ready to offend again.

"Now the Work and Pensions and Prisons Ministers have set up a system that cuts through bureaucratic red tape, takes account of the challenges of life outside and enables former prisoners to meet them.

"This important first step should be followed by a plan to support the many disabled and elderly people on release from jail."