By Rozie Skinner

Back in custody

On Friday 25th June we held our first proper prison event since Jan 2020. Together with Beating Time and supported by Bounceback, we hosted a range of employers and before the end of the day we already had ELEVEN yes ELEVEN firm job offers for proper paid jobs on ROTL. Jobs that can be kept “through the gate” We have a lot of follow up to undertake for women identified by other employers as being right for their companies.

The main theme for the day was the built environment and rail. With the funding in place to deliver CSCS in the establishment the real work will start next week
I never cease to be amazed by the support from our employers so here’s to Elite Rail who have pledged hard cash to help women achieve a drivers license (Many rail work locations are in the middle of nowhere and much is carried out at night}.

The other employers, see below, are also pledged ongoing support by forming an informal network to build a proper relationship with the prison and the women. This would include offering one day workshops including Tool Box Talks, Asbestos and Legionella awareness and other short courses that will add to our women’s employability.

I also want to give a big shout out to the three women who were there with their employers and had all spent time as residents.

We can only do this work because of the flexibility and commitment of the prison team. Senior Officers John Hasemore and, Rena Berry and Community Manager, Toni Duchesne who, responding to the delay of the planned relaxation of Covid rules, housed our event across three separate locations to ensure we kept to all social distancing and other rules.

I was mentally and physically exhausted by the end of the day but not too tired to visit the Farm Shop and buy up Mr Ps special ribs and a selection of meats and sausages produced on the prison farm and butchery. #EastSuttonFarmShop

So big thanks from A Fairer Chance and Beating Time to everyone who supported this event
McGinleys, Elite Rail, VGC, Kier, Bilbys, PSR, Bounceback, BeOnsite, New Futures Network, Sainsburys, Coop, Forward Trust

Women’s work Pt2

This is my second post dedicated to Women’s Work. I think we might need to rebrand as a Talent Acquisition business when I look at the skills, abilities and determination that the women we are able to support have to offer… and what they achieve.

Spring Star stories:

• Former NHS worker we had previously helped secure a driving job was determined to get back into a caring role. After a long process, a little bit of AFC intervention to gently refer the recruitment team to their own NHS Trust’s policy on recruiting people with convictions, she passed all the background checks and has started work as a vaccinator

• We met up with a wonderful young woman who years ago we helped onto the very last Jamie Oliver FiFTEEN scheme. She had previously worked at top London Restaurants but found lock down really hard. We worked with her over the last few months helping her regain her confidence and to renew all her food hygiene and related tickets, paying from our (non existing) hardship fund. Our Ops Director, Rozie, arranged a trial shift with one of the best known awarding winning “artisan” bakeries. They loved her and she’s started work, as a chef, on a wage that reflects her skills, last month

Around the Country

We continue to get contacts from all over the country. I got invited to Clinks Women’s Forum in March that was interesting and informative. The best part was meeting a woman, in the break out bit, from the BOSS project in Cardiff. They are also really keen on helping women help themselves through employment. I was immediately able to put BOSS in touch with NFN who have vacancies in Wales, in the Civil Service and also in the built environment. The logistics of setting up a through the gates service, when Welsh women are sent to English prisons, is not without its challenges. I am also going to try and assist them in establishing links with my retailers.

Then, randomly I met a great young woman on a telephone call. I was doing some employability interviews and had the chance to chat to a young lady who had been released from HMP Peterborough. Well educated, good work history, non-violent crime. She had even contacted the prison for help but was told nobody could help her with employment. I just thought this woman is too good to lose. To cut a long story short I was able to refer her to an ideal job. This is her letter to me

Although I used my time in prison as wisely as I could, by volunteering for various charities and working in the education department as a teaching assistant, I came home feeling very ashamed and with little or no confidence about finding work again.
Despite learning a very hard lesson from my previous mistake, it has led me to a better outlook on life and an appreciation of honesty. That being said in the 18 months that I have been home again I have struggled greatly to find and hold down a job. Maggie at A Fairer Chance has been phenomenal in helping me build up my confidence and to realise that although I made a grave error it doesn’t define who I am.
Maggie put me in touch with User Voice and thanks to her introduction I have been able to secure not only a new job, but a wonderful career opportunity. Thanks to Maggie this is the first time in a long time that I can genuinely say I feel hopeful for the future.

We have had another success with Civil Service with one of our women securing a digital marketing job through the gates.
We have also seen a huge rise in demand for women to work in rail, utilities and construction. Jobs range from muddy boots through admin to planning. I am talking with the fabulous Fran from Bounceback around the possibility of delivering some pre employment CSCS training in custody.

We have just been back in to HMP ESP with Beating Time, who support our work in custody, for the first time this year and I will write more about that next time.
We are only limited by funding. If any organisations out there would like to discuss funding with us, or there are any employers out there who would like to find out more, please contact us at

Womens Work

Last time I wrote I hinted at some exciting news for A Fairer Chance and our work with women. I am delighted to say we have partnered with Beating Time, through their Inside Job initiative, and will be able to continue our work with women in prison, primarily at East Sutton Park, for at least another year.

Through a second partnership with Careers-Academy, we can now also help London women, impacted by their contact with the CJS but who are no longer under supervision
Working with Senior Officer John Hasemore has enabled us to access brilliant, hardworking, resilient women as they strive to obtain employment on licence and through the gates.
Since October, and in these times of Covid, we have still been able to help eleven women interview and secure job offers in retail. We have just heard that another fabulous young woman we have supported has secured an Executive officer job, in my old Department, DWP, through the “Going straight to Work” NFN initiative. Best of all I have a woman working with me now.
Does she know what she’s let herself in for?

In total we directly helped at least 51 women with convictions gain work in the last year. Does this make us the top performer in this field?
We caught up with some of our stars from previous years

• Chris the TFL reporting Manager now four years into her career in project management… and climbing to the top

• Naomi our TFL Contract Manager just a year behind

• Annie, our amazing plant technician who has been employed for more than two years now “I am getting great feedback from her manager, colleagues and most importantly customers. Annie is turning out to be one of my best technicians” Ambius.

• Rowena four years as a reporting officer and payroll manager for a multinational construction company

• Dee, Senior account manager within FM. Employed for two and a half years now

• Cassie now a store manager, who started work six years ago, on a 12 hour ROTL contract, with our favourite retailer.

Any employers who would like to find out more about our work, or talk to any of our real women or existing employers, please feel free to contact me.

In response to the number of people in the prison system most of our work is with men and we do very well there too. But sadly jobs for women are low down the agenda. You can read volumes of information, strategies and research papers concerning women in the criminal justice system, with hardly a mention of employment. I still find it hard to access the various CJS women’s forums.

So today we launch our own initiative that we will simply call Women’s Work .

Do get in touch if you would like to find out more.

Maggie CEO

Our Special Achievement!

I haven’t posted for a while. It’s all been full on. I was going to post about our recruitment exercise. Interesting, challenging but ultimately successful and I will be introducing my new apprentice in due course.

Then I wanted to post about the lack of help for women, who want a job on ROTL or on release. That employment for women prisoners is barely mentioned in strategies and funding opportunities. How there is an assumptions, sometimes perpetrated by the “industry” that employment is not important. At A Fairer Chance we have never turned a woman away. We are regularly contacted by women, or their families, desperate for support. Since the beginning of September we have placed another twelve women into work on ROTL or through the gates. I have a further fifteen interviews booked for this week. The women will now have a chance to save towards a rent deposit and have a job on release, thereby preventing them from having to rely on the broken offender housing system.

I am sure our outstanding results will feature in some other organisation’s statistics!

But I have some really exciting news about our work with women. I may not be able to get a seat on any of the “women’s forums” or find a funding opportunity to apply for but another great organisation has seen the worth of what we do. More to follow.

What I really want to write about today is our surprise and delight at receiving a special achievement award from the Violent Crime Prevention Board on Friday night. The VCPB consists of a team of experienced professionals, community influencers, police and practitioners in the area of addressing violent crime; We were selected by the board members, hence our surprise. At A Fairer Chance we believe everyone needs three things if they are going to flourish, something to do, somewhere to live and someone to give a damn. We try really hard to bring these things together.

With our work in men’s and women’s prisons, across the UK, and our work in the community, we have helped people on life licence, IPPs and MAPPA 2 clients move into sustainable employment. We don’t underestimate the consequences of violent crime. But it is a fact that most prisoners will eventually be released. If we are serious about reducing all crime we have to give those people hope that they can access real work.

We are a tiny team packing a big punch and I want to tell me team how much I appreciate their work and commitment.

We are always keen to talk to like-minded individuals and .to build up our network of employers, particularly in London and South East.

We will be celebrating in the office tomorrow…….with cake……and then getting back to doing what we do best. Helping people into work

Maggie Walsh MBE

May 2020 update

A Fairer Chance, like other businesses, has had to adapt to a new way of working now we can no longer access prisons, jobcentres or probation premises. But we like a challenge. For the time being we are accepting self-referrals, from people being released to London .

We are working particularly closely with Waltham Forest and we are piloting a little project with Eva, the amazing DWP Work Coach in HMP Pentonville. We have the first two lads she has referred to us fixed up with personalised CVs and disclosure letters and one has had a telephone interview already. If he passes his medical he will be back on track, rail track that is, next week.

We also continue to work with women due for release this year. So are there any employers out there interested in offering an advanced apprenticeship to a young woman with a Level 3 Electrical engineering qualification and the first year of an aeronautical degree under her belt? Having helped a young woman move from custody to completing a degree level apprenticeship as a Signalling Technician we know we can help industry access these fantastic women, who have a lot to offer, in an area of huge skills shortages.

Since March we have worked tirelessly with our retail partners. We have identified, prepared and risked assessed our jobseekers, for vacancies across the UK. As one of them said to me “I’ve gone from convict to key worker”. Indeed we have hundreds of AFC people working in key roles across environmental services, retail, logistics and even social care.

At A Fairer Chance we don’t expect our jobseekers to “wear a badge”. We only identify individuals, if they say they want to tell their story. We work with our employers to help them navigate the Criminal Justice System and give them the confidence to employ people on licence or in the community. Once our people are in work they are treated like anybody else that works for that organisation be they project managers, butchers, bakers, carpenters or now civil servants.

While you will find the details of some of our employers on our website they don’t all want to shout too loud about what they do for fear of identifying individuals and, I would say, attracting the attention of the wrong kind of media. However, they are all willing to speak to other employers about their work with us.

So if there are any employers who would like to find out more about what we do or talk to existing employers, then do get in touch

Stay safe and in these times think about everyone in prison. Not just the staff, who I know are doing an amazing job, but the prisoners too who are on a very restricted regime and at the mercy of the virus.

March Update

When I planned for the new operational year I thought I had considered all the reasonable challenges and risks we were likely to encounter. Like the rest of the world I had no idea just what was coming.

We are a small business working primarily on employers’ premises, in prisons, jobcentres and one to one with our beneficiaries. Clearly this has come to an abrupt stop. We are working remotely and happy to hear from you as we plan for when the world returns to something we recognise as “normal”.

One thing we have been able to do is to direct people to two of our amazing, supportive employers who are recruiting temp staff in order that we can still keep our homes running.

Needless to say we are incredibly grateful to the NHS staff and all other people involved in the jobs that must be done.

During this time we will be busy bid writing, completing our end of year review and finally, updating this website.

Do all take good care and look out for other people who may need help at this time.

Maggie Walsh MBE

March 2020

2020 and here we go again.

Last year A Fairer Chance helped more than 100 people, with convictions, secure the right job for them. The range of jobs reflects the broad range of skills and experience our people have. Here’s to the butcher, the baker, the furniture maker, the Facilities Manager, the trackman, the brickie, the project manager, the care worker, the horticulturalist, the advice worker, and many more. Additionally, through our advisory service for employers we helped a further 60 people move into retail. Secure that the companies know about their past but have still decided they are the right person for that job, even though some were still in custody.

Last year we worked very closely with Waltham Forest Council and DWP moving local people, with barriers, into work. The employers include Rentokil, HSS, Marks and Spencer’s, Sainsbury’s, Deploy, User Voice and Lovells. We look forward to continuing this fantastic partnership.

The CITB funded Mind The Gap initiative is approaching the end of the three year pilot. This has enabled A Fairer Chance to host Business Challenge Employment days in prisons across the UK. We will be in HMP Hindley this spring before closing the project when we return to HMP Isis in late March. This will be three years after we launched there and will see a number of lads, who we met on that occasion coming back in with their employers. Of course we can only do this work, that has produced jobs on ROTL and release and built lasting relationships between employers and prison, because of the great support from BeOnsite, Bounceback and our other partners, and the amazing staff in the prisons we work in.

We are very excited to announce that we will be managing the jobs brokerage for Build Enfield.
This is a project to help residents of Enfield and surrounding boroughs to secure jobs and apprenticeships in the construction industry. If you would like to find out more or have any questions please email

A Fairer Chance is only limited by funding and often has to turn away people because of where they live. We have enjoyed great support in 2019 in growing out business through Unltd and hope to expand our coverage, and secure other funding models, over the coming twelve months.
Any employers interested in recruiting talented, loyal workers should contact us directly to find out more.

Happy New Year

Maggie Walsh MBE

An exciting year ahead for A Fairer Chance

This has been a challenging year for A Fairer Chance. Like other organisations operating in this area we have been affected by reductions in funding opportunities.

We are now looking forward to a great 2017 with funding in place to focus on what we are very best at. That is reducing re-offending by helping, people with convictions, secure sustainable employment whilst helping employers fill their skills and labour shortages

On behalf of our board we would like to extend a warm welcome to Wendy Cranmer, Lendlease, and Kay Horne, Network Rail, who are joining our advisory board. They bring their particular expertise in training and employment matters, in Construction and Transport, to our business.

Tapan Baidya, who co-founded A Fairer Chance, will now be moving on. He has been with the business for five years and is now looking to develop new opportunities and employment initiatives in the criminal justice system. However, Tapan will not be severing his links with our social enterprise and we are pleased to say he will be re-joining the Board as a non-executive director in the New Year.


A Fairer Chance continues to develop work with women offenders, both in custody and in the community. We are delighted to have supported two young women secure careers in transport and engineering. One talented graduate now works in project management and a second young woman as an advanced level apprentice, with an International infrastructure contractor. There are many reasons why we cannot always publish full details of beneficiaries and employers though we hope to be able to publish these case studies in full in the New Year.

We are working with TFL and the Transport Museum to attract more women to this industry. We are looking for young women (with convictions), young carers, care leavers and other NEETS, for a  unique, enthusing and preparation course for people looking for a career. Open to all young people but women are underrepresented in transport and engineering so we are keen to promote

If you would like to find out more please email linda@afairerchance and head your email Transport Museum

Working with a retail partner we have nurtured a really productive relationship between HMP East Sutton Park and local stores. This has seen eight women employed on ROTL this year. Those women who have released have all been offered a job near their home and one of the women has been trained up to supervisor. This is a model that really improves the life chances for these women as they leave custody with great self-esteem, money for a rent deposit and a real job!

We were so proud of our two young women who completed the last ever Jamie Oliver FIFTEEN programme. Both young women worked extremely hard to complete the year and we know they will both go on to do amazing things. We are particularly proud of Sarah who was recognised with a special award for the many challenges she overcame on the way. Sarah is now working in a prestigious city restaurant.

We recently took part in an Enterprise Day, with Mitie Foundation, at HMP Downview. We have some local, paid ROTL opportunities to roll out in the New Year.


Working in the Men’s estate

We returned to HMP Pentonville last week to support employment activity in what are really very difficult conditions and will be extending this work in the New Year. We continue to use The Clink in HMP Brixton to show potential employers just what can be achieved when quality training and rehabilitation is in place. We have worked with a number of prisoners through the gates there and arranged employment for two inmates on ROTL.

We are delighted to announce that we are delivery partners, on a CITB contract, funded by the Apprenticeship Levy. This will be delivered by Beonsite/Lendlease and will again enable us to work across the prison estate. We will be identifying people interested in construction work, ranging from operatives and traffic marshals to document handlers and surveyors.  The initiative is to address the skills shortages across the country and provide both practical training and mentoring support. More information on this will be provided in the New Year.


Finally, A Fairer Chance is recruiting. We are looking for someone to join the team in the New Year as a case worker/job broker.

Full details will be available on Clinks website. If you would like further information please email :

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all at A Fairer Chance.

A Fairer Chance wins award at City Hall

Last month we announced that we had been nominated by Cleshar Contract Services for one of the Mayor’s Fund for London Employment Awards 2015. The evening of Tuesday 12th March saw our Directors Maggie and Tapan, Office Manager Linda, Cleshar’s Simon Harrison and myself at City Hall meeting some of the great and the good of youth employment in London.  During the ceremony, the efforts of many organisations and individuals carrying out inspiring work in youth employment were recognised. To our absolute delight we were awarded Pre-Employment Training & Job Brokerage Provider of the Year!

Two fantastic organisations were also shortlisted for this award: Care Trade Charitable Trust, an organisation promoting opportunities for young people with autistic spectrum conditions and last year’s winner, MiddletonMurray, a recruitment and apprenticeship specialist working with NEETs. We had a great evening meeting representatives from both these organisations, and many more besides, devoted to bringing hope and real opportunities to London’s youth. We’ve come away even more determined than ever to do everything within our power to successfully bring together committed, conscientious employers with individuals deserving a fairer chance.

Read more to find out about the finalists and shortlisted organisations and individuals, and also more about the award ceremony and members of the award panel.

Finally we would like to reiterate our thanks to Cleshar Contract Services. Not only did they nominate us for this award but they continue to have faith in us, and more importantly, in the young people they employ. Like all our wonderful employers, they are changing lives in countless ways when they look beyond stereotypes and perceived risks, and give a young Londoner an apprenticeship or job.

A Fairer Chance Operations Director Maggie Walsh, awarded MBE

Today is a remarkable day for A Fairer Chance, as our Operations Director Maggie Walsh MBE will be officially awarded her Member of the Order of the British Empire at Buckingham Palace this morning.

Maggie appeared on the honours list published on the Queen’s official birthday last June, for services to the Employment of Ex-Offenders. The ceremony, known as an Investiture, is likely to take place in the Ballroom, and around 120 people, including Maggie, will receive their Order, decoration or medals from HM The Queen, HRH The Prince of Wales or HRH The Duke of Cambridge.

We asked her earlier in the week for her thoughts on her fantastic achievement:

Interviewer: When did you first hear about being awarded the MBE?

Maggie: I got the letter in April last year, and I was very surprised when this padded envelope came through the door, because getting this honour was not on my radar!

I: What does it mean to you to have been awarded this MBE?

M: I’d be lying if I said that personally I wasn’t really chuffed. I think we all thrive on a bit of acknowledgement, but for me this is so much about the work we do at A Fairer Chance; the work we did at the Department of Work and Pensions before, but absolutely about our work.

I: What do you think being honoured in this way will mean to A Fairer Chance?

M: Well, it’s already raised our profile. It’s quite interesting, I received a letter from Iain Duncan Smith MP at one end, and at the other end, quite a lot of companies who knew of us, or who we know of, took the opportunity to get in touch, congratulate me, and to meet us. Yes, I think it’s done us a lot of good.

I: What will you be doing to celebrate?

M: On the day (Friday the 13th! Only I could get my invitation for that day), I’m having a private lunch with my immediate family and a couple of my really supportive employers who have really set us on our way. On the following day I’m having a vintage tea party for all the friends, family, employers and beneficiaries we’ve worked with over the last four years, with the odd glass of sparkly as the afternoon goes on!

All of us at A Fairer Chance would like to say a huge congratulations to Maggie for this acknowledgement for all her fantastic work.