Report on Employment Support at HMP East Sutton Park
1 October 2020 – 30 September 2021
This is an overview of the work undertaken by A Fairer Chance and Beating Time through their Inside Job partnership at HMP East Sutton Park (ESP) during the 12 months from 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021 – a period dominated by Covid and lockdown across the prison estate. Notwithstanding this, the project has worked with over 95 women during the 12 months, delivering 57 job starts (both through paid ROTL and post-release). The team has also provided many hours of emotional and practical pre- and post-release support during this very vulnerable time.
The results achieved are, we believe, outstanding against the background of the pandemic and the physical absence of other contracted employment support in ESP during much of the review period. ESP was at Stage 3 or 4 for most of this time, but we could deliver due to our strong relationships with the prison, local store managers of a national retailer and with the women themselves. We were delighted when New Futures Network commented,
“[W]e are looking at best practice across the Women’s Estate… East Sutton Park is a shining example of how partnership working should work and that is down to A Fairer Chance and Beating Time”.
While this work has been possible due to the support of many, we would particularly like to extend our thanks to Officer Hasemore of ESP, Beverley Toone of New Futures Network, our Reps and most importantly, the women of ESP without whom nothing would have been possible.
Maggie Walsh and her small team at A Fairer Chance have undertaken most of the frontline work, working in partnership with Beating Time as part of the Inside Job Programme. Maggie has a long-standing relationship with ESP and an excellent reputation with the women as a valuable and trusted source of practical employment support and opportunities. The work has been, and continues to be, funded by the charity, Beating Time, from its own reserves. Beating Time has established Inside Job in four Prisons in the Midlands. A Fairer Chance has helped more than 1900 people with convictions move into work over the last 10 years.
Inside Job is a peer-led employment project run in a prison, with trained Reps identifying and supporting candidates among their fellow residents with job opportunities pre-release and linking to expert employment advisers in the community both before and after release. Covid restrictions mean it has not been possible to operate fully in ESP during Covid. It has therefore been a bespoke service, providing a 1-2-1 employment service relying, in the main, on direct contact initiated by the women in ESP.
The Review Period
- Context: Population Size
ESP houses around 100 women when at full capacity. During the period covered by this report, the population has been at c.80% of usual levels due to the slowdown in transfers from the closed estate and the need to keep numbers low as part of Covid prevention management.
Around 54 were released during this time.
We have employer confirmations of 58 job starts for 57 women during this period (pre- and post-release). Some of these women were originally placed by A Fairer Chance just before starting the Inside Job partnership with Beating Time. However, they have been included in the figures because we have continued to work with them during the review period (whether in ESP, on transfer to the closed estate and on release).
- Overview of Results (all Starts)
We have written confirmation, from the employers, for fifty-eight job starts.
- 29 Women have reached “26 week” post-start date point.
- 22 women sustained at six months. That equates to 77%.
- Of the 7 who did not, 4 were transferred to other establishments and 1 resigned. 2 we have not been able to speak with, but we are aware that 1 has moved to a new employer following an initial transfer to a store local to her home area (reported by another woman who has remained in touch) and 1 has been deported.
We have no evidence of reoffending from this group (although we cannot confirm for the two we were unable to speak to directly).
- Employment Path and Work Sectors
We have also reviewed the path to employment and work sectors which the women have gone into.
Options during the period were severely curtailed by Covid. ROTL options were particularly badly affected with a ban imposed by MoJ save for those in key worker occupations: the move to remote/home working available to the wider population was not possible in the prison estate. However, this unusual period has also highlighted the advantage of having strong relationships with a national food retailer. This has enabled many to continue to prepare for release by earning income and (re)building skills as well as supporting the local community as essential workers.
Of the total 58 starts:
- 52 started work on ROTL (the majority placed with our retail partner).
- 4 women were provided with many hours of dedicated support to secure excellent Civil Service roles (with DWP and MoJ) including detailed guidance on the application form, CV and person spec, pre-interview prep, post job offer practical support and advocacy with accommodation needs, right-to-work documentation and other induction administration delays, stop-gap employment and emotional support.
- 1 has become a florist/plant technician.
- 1 is working in production with a high-end frozen-food retailer.
- 1 has been employed by A Fairer Chance for 9 months and is completing a Level 4 Apprenticeship as Employability Practitioner.
The Government’s initiative “Going Forward Into Employment”, brokered through New Futures Network has opened up some excellent opportunities for the women. While there have been some frustrations over the lengthy induction process which can result in real financial hardship (and emotional stress) for our candidates the jobs themselves offer real opportunity, career progression and security through pension and other benefits. We have become very skilled at the application process, and we were delighted to learn last week that A Fairer Chance is the most successful organisation at placing people through the GFIE initiative.
A little more detail on the destination of former ESP residents as at the end of the review period:
|EO||DWP Summer School *|
|EO||DWP Digital marketing role|
|AO||DWP Local Job Centre Admin Support**|
*now appointed a member of the task force into making GFIE programme more effective
**now also heading up the local task forces on immigration/asylum seekers and people with complex needs/on the margins
- The Post-Release Story – Job Progression
The ESP women we have worked with over the period have demonstrated time and time the calibre of employee that is in our prisons and the role that ROTL can play to change people’s outcomes on release.
- 11 women have kept their ROTL jobs on release transferring to a local store in their home area. This has been achieved through our close relationships with Head Office of our partner national retailer and the local managers.
- 2 women on life licence have successfully applied for parole, supported by their ROTL employer. 1 of these women has now been employed for 18 months following a transfer through the gates.
- At least 2 women have resettled in Kent to keep their jobs in stores where they are thriving and have good support systems.
- At least 3 women are now in management roles
- I Employment Event held in June 2021 (focused on the construction industry) with over 30 women attending. We welcomed some great employers and as the women have been approved for ROTL and/or reaching the last weeks of their sentence we are working with Elite Rail, Kovona and others to follow up on job offers and new opportunities. There is one success we have not been able to report on – McGinleys offered a role to a young woman through the gates on one of their large-scale rail projects but the supported housing she was referred to prevented her being able to take up the job. This is an all-too-common story for those being released from the wider prison estate.
On a more personal note, our in-depth work building relationships with all parties to the process has enabled a woman from the traveller community to get what she calls her first “proper” job. Her manager called to tell us she was one of the best workers ever and have spoken to her about training for a management position. There is a certain irony in the fact it took her coming to prison to secure a “straight job”.
None of this is achieved in isolation. We reach out to our network to find roles which fit an individual woman – not just any job. This includes other organisations such as Bounce Back who helped one woman regain her old job on release through their own contacts with that company.
It is also worth noting that the Permanent Roles with the national retailer were all achieved because of the ROTLs secured for the women whilst they were still serving their sentences. This demonstrates how invaluable ROTL can be in terms of the employment pathway for people serving sentences (and supporting the MOJ’s own research on this area). If you would like to share more within ESP (and the wider women’s estate) to promote the importance of ROTL we can provide numerous case studies/examples: we are passionate about supporting any work which changes the employment outcomes for women and leaving prison in a positive way.
- Inside Job Peers
As Covid restrictions have started to ease, we have also been able to bring in the peer-led component of Inside Job. Beating Time has directly funded:
2 Training Days: we commissioned Phil Martin of Ex-Seed to deliver 2 training days to two candidates for the Inside Job Internal Recruiter Role. Phil is the author of the “Bible” on securing a job with Convictions “How to Get a Great Job with a Criminal Record” and ran an Employment Desk as a serving Prisoner in HMP Spring Hill, securing over 400 ROTLS/ Post Release Positions.
1 laptop & Printer: on which we have preloaded the precedents and know how the internal recruiters need to support their peers to produce tailored CVs and Disclosure Letters – building on the excellent CV writing course run by the Education team.
Bursaries: we fund small bursaries for our peers which are paid to them on release and provide phone credits for those using the prison PIN system so that staying in touch with us does not put them at a financial disadvantage.
1 coach: we have arranged for one Candidate who wants to be a professional life coach post prison, to have Coaching herself with a leading professional coach.
Maggie Walsh and Rachel Mace
 The Reoffending Impact of Increased Release of Prisoners on Temporary Licence, J Hillier, and A. Mews; Analytical Summary 2018 (Ministry of Justice (OGL, 2018)
To find out more about our Women’s work, please take a look at our dedicated page Women’s work | A Fairer Chance