Employability tests urged for young offenders

Young offenders should be tested on their reading, writing and maths skills, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

The party has called for mandatory testing to be introduced for young people serving custodial sentences.

The move would boost employment opportunities and help to cut reoffending on release, justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell MSP claimed.

She pointed to figures released by the Scottish Prison Service in 2012 showing around 81% of prisoners lacked functional literacy while 71% lacked functional numeracy.

Ms Mitchell said: “As it stands, young offenders can spend years in and out of prison without being offered anything in the way of support.

“If prisoners are being released with no literacy or numeracy skills, there is no doubt it will increase the chances of them returning to prison in the future.

“If the SNP government is genuinely serious about reducing reoffending, it has to address these worrying literacy and numeracy statistics for offenders.

“The mandatory testing of young offenders in prison would allow that help to be targeted very specifically.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Prison Service already assesses every convicted young offender’s literacy and numeracy skills on admission and along with the education provider actively encourages all prisoners to participate in education classes.”