This chapter explores the challenges and dilemmas faced by practitioners in the criminal justice system with respect to promoting the acquisition of basic skills in a context where the emphasis is increasingly upon offence-focused work and risk management. It draws upon the increasing body of research, both national and international, which is beginning to enhance understanding of the links between poor basic skills, social exclusion, restricted life opportunities and the risk of becoming entrenched in an offending lifestyle. In doing so, it considers the implications for practice of the twin notions of human capital and social capital, at the heart of which is education and, by inference, literacy and numeracy. It stresses the importance of basic skills (or the lack of such skills) both as a potential risk factor contributing to offending behaviour and as a potential barrier to an individual's effective response to interventions. It also discusses the three ‘R's’ of responsivity in relation to offenders with basic skills needs: recognition, re-skilling and reintegration. Finally, the chapter discusses case management and implications for face-to-face work with offenders.
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