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  • Writer's pictureSusan Wakelin

What role do employers play in preventing the re-offending of ex-prisoners?

Updated: May 25, 2023

Evidence shows that ex-prisoners who have a job to go to after leaving prison are 9% less likely to re-offend.

Employing Ex-Offenders

Ex-offenders face a lot of prejudice from employers who believe they would not be good employees, even where there are widespread labour shortages and employers are struggling to recruit for certain roles. Yet, 90% of businesses that do employ ex-offenders say that they found them to be reliable, motivated and trustworthy members of staff.

The Government's Strategy to Reduce Re-Offending

The government believes that getting prisoners into work is a tried-and-tested way of cutting crime and the Prisons White Paper sets out a strategy to reduce re-offending and keep the public safe, by helping prisoners develop the skills they need to find work on release to move away from crime.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed that bosses from top firms including the Co-op, Greggs, Iceland and Oliver Bonas have been appointed as Employment Advisory Board (EAB) chairs in prisons, which helps to prepare prisoners nearing the end of their sentence for release into the community.

The EABs link prisons to leading business leaders who can offer their expertise on the skills, qualifications and training needed to help prisoners re-enter the workforce.

Employment Opportunities for Prisoners

The MoJ launched the New Futures Network (NFN) following the publication of the Education and Employment Strategy in 2018. The NFN was established to create employment opportunities for prisoners by building a partnership between businesses and prisons, with over 400 organisations currently being involved in the programme.

"Businesses can plug skills gaps with reliable and motivated staff – so it is good for our economy." – Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary

The Hospitality sector, in particular, has struggled with labour shortages and, in October 2022, the NFN launched the Unlocking Hospitality campaign, which saw a collaboration between the Hospitality industry and the HM Prison and Probation Service. Through the Unlock Hospitality campaign, 150 interviews were conducted over a two-week period, resulting in 50 prisoners, who were due to leave prison, being offered a job. One example of success, is that of an ex-offender who is now working to get more prisoners in work, since taking on a leadership role after initially being recruited as a chef.

After the success of the Unlocking Hospitality campaign, the NFN launched the Unlocking Construction campaign, which held 80 events over 60 prisons between 23 January and 3 February this year, with a wide range of information and hands-on workshops being offered by different trades, such as scaffolders, crane operatives and building site managers.

In addition to industry workshops helping prisoners to understand what jobs would be right for their skill set, they also offered guidance on how to write their CV and interview training, to provide them the best opportunity of being offered a job.

"Campaigns like Unlocking Construction are steering offenders into work and away from crime, leaving our streets safer." – Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary

Benefits of Employing Ex-Offenders

The NFN has been established, not only to reduce re-offending, but also to fill the gaps in industries struggling with labour shortages.

Future campaigns are planned to support manufacturing and retail as well as the logistics industry.

"If you get a successful candidate, what I can absolutely guarantee is loyalty – because you’re giving them an opportunity that very few if any people have given them and they will pay you back tenfold in that respect." – National Access & Scaffolding Confederation Training Manager, Henry Annafi

In addition to this, the government changed the law recently to allow prisoners access to apprenticeship schemes, with the aim to encourage hundreds of prisoners to complete an apprenticeship by 2025, with thousands more undertaking pre-apprenticeship training, to prepare them for a full course or a higher skilled job upon release.

Hiring ex-offenders can also build an employer's brand in the community where, according to research, over 80% of the general public think businesses who take on ex-offenders are making a positive contribution to society.

SWan HR Consultancy (London and Kent)

SWan HR is an HR consultancy that specialises in HR support for small to medium sized businesses in the South East.

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SWan HR was founded by Susan Wakelin, MCIPD, who is a qualified HR professional with over thirty years' experience, from setting up, auditing and improving HR functions to management coaching and supporting organisations through difficult situations, transformation and change.

SWan HR provides a broad range of tailored HR services including an HR audit, HR advice, HR outsourcing, HR coaching and project work for all businesses.

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