04/11/2011

Offender Skills Centre Opened

Prisoners are to benefit from an enhanced learning facility with news that the NI Justice Minister David Ford has officially opened the Donard and Learning and Skills Centres at Maghaberry Prison.

The Minister was joined by Employment and Learning Minster Stephen Farry and representatives from the Stormont Health and Justice Committees at the event.

Opening the new facilities, David Ford said: "This is both an important and proud day for the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

"The opening of the Donard and the Learning and Skills centres showcases a £3million investment in the future of the Prison Service.

"This is not just an investment in bricks and mortar, but in the new Northern Ireland Prison Service which has specially trained officers to deal with the most vulnerable offenders to challenge their offending behaviour, and give them vital skills to help them deal better with life when they leave prison.

"The Donard Centre is a purpose built unit, developed in partnership with the South Eastern Trust.

"The new Learning and Skills Centre will almost double our educational capacity at Maghaberry. It provides a range of vocational activities for offenders to improve their employability skills after release," he said.

The Executive Minister and Alliance Party Leader continued: "Prisoner rehabilitation is a cross-departmental responsibility and I’m also very proud that these centres were developed in partnership with my Executive colleagues at DEL and DHSSPS. I would like to replicate that elsewhere in our prison estate."

Also speaking at the launch, Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry said: "This new Learning and Skills Centre will be key to the successful rehabilitation of prisoners back into their communities. Education and training is key to increasing opportunities for prisoners to make more positive life choices.

"I am committed to supporting and strengthening cross departmental work on education and skills for prisoners and ex prisoners alike, and to promoting an integrated approach to raising the skills base and the employability of offenders."

Commenting on the new Donard Centre, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "I welcome the opening of the new Donard Day Centre and Learning and Skills Centre at Maghaberry, both of which will play a valuable role in caring for vulnerable prisoners.

"The establishment of these centres demonstrates the benefits of partnership working between the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and the Northern Ireland Prison Service."

(BMcC)

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