Massive increase in prison kitchen training

Work with offenders looks at the MoJ announcement to roll out The Clink Kitchens training programme into 70 prisons

Prisons Minister Lucy Frazer announced today that Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and The Clink charity have agreed to extend their training programme, currently already operating in HMPs High Down, Cardiff, Brixton and Styal, to offenders working in an additional 70 prison kitchens.

Following successful pilots, training will continue at HMPs Bristol and Styal and from the end of April they will be first joined by Eastwood Park, Send and Downview with a steady further rollout creating opportunities to help as many as two thousand offenders into employment and away from crime for good.

About The Clink

The Clink Charity provides vocational training in catering, front of house, cleaning and horticulture. The service aims to give prisoners skills and qualifications that will enable them to secure employment on release, with the intention that this will reduce the rate of reoffending. The training sees serving prisoners work in professionally run kitchens for up to 35 hours a week, preparing and cooking up to 80,000 daily meals for fellow prisoners. Trainees work towards gaining City and Guilds National Vocational Qualifications Levels 1, 2 and 3, while improving their confidence, teamworking and communication skills.

There are training restaurants in HMP High Down, HMP Cardiff, HMP Brixton and HMP Styal, and a horticulture project in HMP Send. Their objective is to develop life and employment skills in preparation for release and provide specialist training to facilitate prisoners’ future employment in the hospitality industry. The charity provides an intensive support package on release into the community, including help with accommodation, debts, substance misuse, employment, budgeting and life skills.

The programme works with prisoners for between 6 and 18 months immediately prior to their release. The restaurants are a live working environment with a busy customer service. Trainees learn to take responsibility as individuals and to work as part of a team. They learn time keeping, team work, customer service and they develop their self-esteem and confidence. The length of prisoners’ sentences does not determine the likelihood of their being selected for the programme, as long as they have a minimum of 6 months remaining to complete their training.

Anyone who has ever eaten in a Clink restaurant knows that the quality of food and service is on a par with a high calibre establishment worthy of a review in a national newspaper by the likes of Jay Rayner, Tom Parker Bowles or Giles Coren.

However, the Clink is not just a feel-good charity, the training programme has been proven to work with the Ministry of Justice’s own Justice Data Lab undertaking a reconviction study which found that reductions in both the number of people reoffending on release from prison and in the number of any offences committed were “statistically significant”.

In its press release, the MoJ highlighted the return on investment of the programme, something that penal reformers would like to see more emphasis on:

“This success means for every £1 invested, The Clink Charity is likely to generate at least £4.80 back to the prison service, government and society in reduced reoffending rates.”

Like all eating establishments, the Clink has had to adapt to the demands of the pandemic and its associated lockdowns both in prison and the community. However, the project at HMP Brixton has recently restarted training prisoner students and is able to offer home delivery until the on-site restaurant is open again. The organisation also offers a very successful event catering service, although, again a service that can only operate once events are allowed again.

The announcement is very much a win-win for the MoJ, since not only is the expansion of training very welcome, but the Government doesn’t have to foot the bill – the scheme will be funded entirely by The Clink.