Work and desistance
Everyone knows that finding work is a key component to going straight; a factor which is confirmed by the evidence base. There are four key reasons why employment promotes desistance:
- An individual can fill their time constructively and become economically independent.
- Employment facilitates reintegration into the wider society by helping individuals to move away from criminal networks and develop social relationships with a wide range of people.
- Being in paid employment enhances individuals’ self-esteem and helps them to build a renewed and positive sense of self, which helps to protect against a return to crime.
- The status of being an employed person acts as an important symbol to the individual of their ability to return successfully to a conventional life.
This fact is, of course, acknowledge by government and helping prisoners find employment (and encouraging employers to take them on) is a key part of the prison reform project. Indeed, the Justice Data Lab is now able to analyse both reoffending and employment outcomes.
However, finding work with a criminal record is no easy task. So, I have put together this resource page which lists the main organisations which can help.
Inevitably, many good examples have been left out. If you run or have experience of an organisation which does a good job in helping offenders find work, please: Get in touch.
If you’re currently being supervised on probation, your offender manager should know the best local services to help you find work.
The page is divided into three sections:
- Help with disclosure
- Help with finding work
- Employers with good reputations for taking on offenders
Dealing with a criminal record
Business in the Community has led the “Ban the Box” campaign which encourages employers to state publicly that they will consider job candidates with criminal convictions and advises them on only asking about criminal convictions which are relevant to the job to which they are recruiting.
Nacro‘s Resettlement Advice Service provides information, advice, guidance and legal advocacy support to people with criminal records through a free confidential helpline; as well as advice, support and training to practitioners and employers. The helpline is open Monday to Friday 9 -5 on 0300 123 1999 (calls charged at local rate). You can also email them on [email protected]
Unlock is a charity for people with convictions which does two main things: assist people to move on positively with their lives by empowering them with information, advice and support to overcome the stigma of their previous convictions and promote a fairer and more inclusive society by challenging discriminatory practices and promoting socially just alternatives. It has developed an online tool that works out when your convictions are spent and so don’t need to be disclosed to most employers; it also runs criminal record disclosure training for people working with offenders.
Help finding work
Blue Sky is a social enterprise which recruits only offenders to deliver a range of business contracts with local authority and private sector clients.
Bounce Back is a Charity which offer training, work experience and employment to offenders at the end of their sentences using the skills developed both in custody and on release; it works with several prisons and probation in the London areas.
Chance 2013 Ltd is an employment agency based in the West Midlands working exclusively with offenders who want to re-enter the job market.
Clean Sheet is a national, Christian charity, focusing exclusively on work for prisoners and ex offenders. Their 3-step pathway offers the support and guidance – in and after prison – to find work. Clean Sheet members can access an Employers Directory (currently containing 90+ companies) and apply direct for any of advertised position. Clean Sheet provides online support and advice via their helpline.
Offploy (launched by ex-offender Jacob Hill) specialises in ex-offender employment and provides a bespoke service to companies helping them review their HR policies to develop an inclusive approach to hiring people with convictions. The organisation recruits and mentors ex-offenders looking for work with the mentoring support lasting for 6 months into work. Offploy also specialising in helping criminal justice organisations recruit.
Prisoner Education Solutions is a national Education & Training company that specialises in helping offenders gain qualifications, training & employment.
Switchback is an award-winning prisoner rehabilitation charity based in London. Our team of full-time, paid Mentors provide intensive one-to-one support for 18-30 year old men as they go through the prison gate and into training and employment. Our mission is to change the way offenders think about and participate in society, enabling them to lead stable, rewarding lives. Only 9% of Switchback Trainees reoffend within a year compared to a national rate of 46%.
Tempus Novo are based in HMP Leeds and HMP Wealstun and work with offenders in custody and on release to help them find work; and have a particular expertise at working with prolific (PPO) offenders.
The Hard Yard is a fitness brand that employs ex-offenders to run its ‘tough prison workouts’ in London.
Working Chance is the UK’s only specialist recruitment consultancy for women with criminal convictions. They have made over 1,300 successful work placements since 2009. In 2015, Working Chance also began supporting young women leaving care into work – to tackle the “care-to-prison pipeline”. They work across London, Manchester and the surrounding areas, and have an office within HMP Downview. Working Chance places women into paid employment and voluntary/work experience placements with a range of mainstream employers and delivers vital employability training. In addition, they provide support services covering housing, debt and money management, domestic abuse and counselling.
Of course all employers should be prepared to consider people with convictions for work. The ones listed in this section have a reputation for being proactive in recruiting people with a criminal record. Boots and Marks and Spencers (sometimes) are other large companies known to be happy to employ people with convictions if they have the appropriate skills and experience.
A number of initiatives have focused on getting employers to sign up publicly to commit to recruit offenders:
- There is a list of all the “offender-friendly” employers who have signed the “Ban the Box” campaign here.
- The government (mainly DWP/MoJ) campaign See Potential is supported by more than 100 employers
The Exceptionals campaign focuses on changing employers’ perceptions about hiring people with convictions. Its objective is to inspire and inform employers about the opportunity of working with ex-offenders – an overlooked community full of potential. The campaign aims to educate business about the skills and positive attitude that this workforce has to offer and provide insight into the process of hiring an ex-offender.
James Timpson, the Chief Executive of the family shoe repair & key cutting firm, has been a leading figure in the business community advocating for the employment of people with conviction. 10% employees (colleagues, as they are known at Timpson’s) are ex-offenders. James chairs the Employers Forum for Reducing Reoffending.
Greggs’ Ready to Work programme has been developed with a number of prisons and probation areas to provide both offenders and ex-offenders with personal and work development experiences. This builds their confidence and self-esteem, leading to work experience and paid employment – aiming to break the cycle of re-offending and reduce its cost to society. The company aims to run three Ready to Work programmes each year.