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West Suffolk MP, Matt Hancock, calls for help with prisoners’ literacy

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock has said more needs to to be done within the justice system to help prisoners learn to read and thereby improve their prospects after release from prison.

Mr Hancock made the observation In a letter sent last Thursday to Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, in which he called for the screening of neurodivergent conditions, such as dyslexia, within the prison population.

Last September the MP, who is dyslexic, launched the Accessible Learning Foundation (ALF) to push for wider understanding of neurodiversity in schools, prisons and the workplace.

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock. Picture: Mark Westley
West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock. Picture: Mark Westley

As the founder of ALF, he has asked to meet Mr Chalk to discuss a Bill signed in September by New York Mayor Eric Adams that requires all prisoners to be offered screenings for dyslexia.

In his letter, Mr Hancock said a 2021 review of neurodiversity in the criminal justice system suggested that as much as 50 per cent of the UK’s prison population (five times that of the general population) could be dyslexic.

He also pointed out that a 2022 report from HMIP (His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prison) and Ofsted revealed that 57 per cent of adult prisoners had literacy levels below those expected of an 11-year-old.

He added: “This alarming statistic clearly shows we must do more to tackle this issue.”

He also said: “While I understand the pressures on the prison system, it’s essential to recognise that we won’t reduce these pressures if we don’t teach prisoners how to read.

“By taking decisive action on this issue we can help reduce the re-offending rate and provide offenders with the support they need to find employment and positively contributed to UK society and the economy.

“I look forward to discussing this further as it’s essential we support those with neurodivergent conditions to prevent reoffending.”