579. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of days in the past academic year since September 2017 on which education and training workshops in the Irish Prison Service were closed due to the unavailability of prison service staff other than teaching staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16516/18]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I wish to advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes to those in custody that include education, vocational training, healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, counselling,   welfare and spiritual services. These programmes can offer purposeful   activity to those in custody while serving their sentences and encouraging   them to lead law abiding lives on release. These programmes are available in all prisons and all prisoners are eligible to use the services. 
The Department of Education and Skills provides an allocation of 220 whole time teacher equivalents to the Prison Service through the Education and Training Boards.  Education in prisons is delivered in partnership between the Education and Training Boards and the Irish Prison Service with a focus on providing education which is quality assured, student centred and which facilitates lifelong learning. The partnership endeavours to meet the needs of prisoners through helping them cope with their sentence, achieve personal development and prepare for life after release.
The guiding principles which underpin the prisons' work and training service are to make available, work, work-training and other purposeful activities to all those in custody. Training activities are chosen to give as much variety as possible and also to give opportunities for those in prison to acquire practical skills which will help them secure employment on release. 
332 Work Training Officers have been appointed and assigned to areas such as catering, laundry, industrial cleaning, industrial skills and gym.
The manner in which records are collated does not allow us to provide statistics on the number of days the workshops were closed and the reasons for such closures.  However, the following table provides the hours workshops were closed as a percentage of potential open hours.

Month   % Closed Hours
 September 2017  31%
 October 2017  23%
 November 2017  24%
 December 2017  28%
 January 2018  22%
 February 2018  24%

The following table provides the days Education Centres were closed:
Month   No of Days per month closed due to unavailability of Prison Service Staff (other than teaching staff) across 13 Education Centres
 September 2017 19 days
 October 2017 6.5 days
 November 2017 8.5 days
 December 2017 16.5 days
 January 2018 5 days
 February 2018 4 days
 March 2018 18 days
 April 2018 1 day

Six of the 13 Education Centres in Irish Prison Service (Arbour Hill, Castlerea, Portlaoise, Midlands, Shelton Abbey, Loughan) did not have school closure for any day since September 2017.