There is a strong correlation between offending behaviour and issues such as poor literacy, language and numeracy skills, and a history of unemployment. Many people in custody have had a poor experience of education, including limited, if any, formal qualifications or skills, and no experience of stable employment.
Since 2015, Learning and Skills has been delivered in the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) by two Further Education Colleges; Belfast Metropolitan College (BMC) and North West Regional College (NWRC).
A formal agreement between NIPS and BMC (acting on behalf of the College partnership) brings about greater coherence, collaboration and consistency in the delivery of Learning and Skills to help provide positive outcomes for individuals in the care of NIPS that will assist with their resettlement and reduce the risk of further offending.
In the Prisons 25x25 Strategic Framework (Prisons 25by25 ) NIPS has committed to provide development opportunities focused on preparing individuals for release with the skills needed to make a positive contribution to society. Personal Development Plans are the cornerstone of scheduling activity within NIPS to ensure that the curriculum takes account of the unique needs of women, older people, and foreign nationals so that everyone in NIPS care is offered purposeful activity that meets their individual needs.
NIPS is also committed to supporting students who wish to avail of higher level education, which in the main is provided by the Open University via distance learning.