Letter: Education choices for prison service

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Sir: At a time of public expenditure cuts, why is the Home Office going ahead with putting the prison service education departments out to competitive tender?

At present these departments run on an at-cost basis, with a 5 per cent on-cost being paid to the local education authority administering the staff. After the incorporation of further education colleges in April 1993 all the departments will be run on a contract basis by colleges or training

agencies.

These organisations must want some profit from the business or why would they want to do it? It is widely accepted that the cost of the education service will increase - or that the service will be cut again this year (after savage cuts last year) to keep the prices down.

There is an alternative. The whole of education and training in the prison service - including the initial training of staff, National Vocational Qualification assessor training of instructors, update and promotion training and, of course, inmate education - could be done through a prison service further education college, incorporated like all other FE colleges next April.

The structure for this is already in place in the chief education officer's branch of the Home Office. The costs of direct employment must be less than paying profit- making organisations to do the same job.

If the Government is serious about its policy of containing public spending, cost-effectiveness must be allowed to outweigh the doctrinaire lust for a market economy.

Yours faithfully,

JEFFREY R. BUTCHER

Leyland,

Lancashire

9 October

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