Offenders spent more than 90,000 hours last year learning work and living skills aimed at positive change in their lives and reducing the likelihood they will reoffend, Corrections Minister Louise Upston says.

Work and Living Skills (WLS) is part of community work sentences in which eligible offenders sentenced to more than 80 hours of community work may be able to convert up to 20 per cent of their hours into work and skills training.

Last year offenders completed 90,759 hours of WLS, up from 72,160 hours in 2015. The number of offenders completing WLS has also increased from 7278 in 2015 to 12,694 in 2016.

Community Corrections sites offer WLS activities including road safety, driver licensing, cooking, health and wellbeing, education, parenting, budgeting and work skills to increase employment opportunities.

“WLS helps offenders learn skills they may not have had the chance to learn previously. This can increase their chances of getting jobs and be a key motivator for them to make positive life changes and reduce the likelihood of reoffending,” Ms Upston says.

“Offenders in employment are less likely to reoffend. Regular income and the sense of self-esteem that comes from being in work is good for offenders, their families and the communities they live in. This Government is committed to targeted social investment that makes a real difference in the lives of New Zealanders.

Examples of recent WLS projects include:

  • Taitokerau Community Law delivers financial education sessions to offenders at Whangarei Community Corrections. The aim of the presentation is to ensure the offenders have a greater awareness of the true total cost of purchases from local mobile shopping trucks. This includes how much interest they will pay over the duration of the higher purchase loan contract and how these can quickly spiral out of control.
  • Waikato-based offenders have completed NZTA courses to help them obtain their traffic controller registration.
  • Offenders in the Taranaki District took part in a Loves Me Not workshop designed by Lesley Elliott, the mother of Sophie Elliott who was murdered in 2008. The workshop involved hands-on exercises targeting family violence in all of its forms.
  • Ashburton Community Corrections has been giving cooking lessons to local offenders to help them learn basic food nutrition and cooking skills.

“It’s great to see offenders being taught skills that may help them find jobs, turn their lives around and help their whanau and communities. I am looking forward to seeing more of these projects this year,” Ms Upston says.

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