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. https://new.enfield.gov.uk/buildenfield/
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 rozie.skinner-matey@enfield.gov.uk

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

Making the business case for recruiting people with convictions

HouseofcommonsI was so pleased to welcome many of my supportive employers to the House of Commons last week to celebrate the first year of our CITB, Apprenticeship Levy funded project, ‘Mind the Gap’.

Led by Lendlease we are working with prisons and in the community to identify and recruit, men and women, interested in working in the construction industry. With funding for industry standard training and work tasters, the project can support people on release into employment and beyond.

This initiative has allowed A Fairer Chance to do what we do best, to bring real employers with real jobs into prison. We introduce employers to people who really want to forge a career in construction, be it “muddy boots”, project, and administration or management roles.

The post release support element of the project means A Fairer Chance, and partner , Beonsite and Bounceback, can provide effective post employment support for both the individual and the employer for at least six months.

Most heart warming for me was that I had been able to invite people that I had met in custody, some of them as long as six years ago. They attended not as beneficiaries but as operatives, supervisors and managers working for my great enlightened and supportive employers.

This is a three year project and we will continue to deliver tailored events, in custody and in the community, with our partners, until 2020.

As part of this project NACRO have produced guidance for construction employers wanting to find out more about recruiting people with convictions. It is a practical guide and can be downloaded at www.nacro.org.uk/training-and-consultancy/mind-gap-project/

A Fairer Chance works across all sectors and has now placed more than a thousand people into jobs, across a wide range of occupations. Lots of our people have gone on to forge successful careers and given hard work and loyalty to the employers who gave them a break.

This includes more than eighty women working on ROTL (Release on temporary licence). This offers the very best chance of successful resettlement.  “Working out” allows women to save for a rent deposit and, in many cases, keep their job on release.

There are more than 10,000,000 people in the UK with a criminal record. The cost of re-offending is estimated to be up to £13 billion .For example; we have over 86,000 people in custody in the UK.  It costs over £38,000 to keep someone in prison for a year. The only way we get payback for the public purse is if these people are paying tax and national insurance. At this time the UK has huge skills and labour shortages. It only makes sense to start seriously considering people, who have like most of us made mistakes in the past, to fill these gaps.

We cant always shout about the work we do with our, mainly private sector, companies. Nor about the amazing individuals we are able to help move into work. They have been through the criminal justice system and now just want to get on with life, without being identified as being different from the rest of the population.  A Fairer Chance operates a business approach to what we do. Our candidates are well prepared and generally gain their jobs on merit, not as a part of a separate CSR initiative, though we do realise different challenges need different solutions  and there are some great programmes out there offering different approaches.

If you are an employer, looking to gain an edge and make a difference in these very challenging times myself, my team, my employers and my successes are all keen to talk about what you can do to access this rich pool of talent and help you navigate the Criminal Justice system.

June 2018

www.afairerchance.co.uk

Our work continues in 2018

Another year on and A Fairer Chance continues to help people turn their lives around and to help employers source good loyal workers to meet their skills and labour shortages.

2017 was certainly a challenging year. Whatever funding that is currently available in the criminal justice system is being spent on signposting, rather than actually helping people secure employment. Inspection reports and feedback from The Prison Reform Trust and The Howard League for Penal Reform have highlighted the lack of effective resettlement services available to people with convictions, particularly in our overcrowded and understaffed prisons.

Despite the challenges, we ended the year on a high; our contract with Be Onsite, to deliver the CITB initiative, “Mind the Gap” (funded by the Apprenticeship Levy), has seen us back doing what we do best. That is, running real employment events – supported by our marvellous enlightened employers – in prison. This has enabled us to support individuals “through the gate” to interview, and ultimately, to a job.

The closing of HMP Holloway has meant that women with London addresses are now held in prisons around the South East of England and sometimes even further afield. We have continued to work with women, and have achieved some great results this year. We have secured employment for some talented women in HMP East Sutton Park, where our employers have accompanied us to employment mornings and we have achieved great results. In addition to securing retail roles, we have brokered employment for a woman in a senior administration role, on ROTL, and she is due to be released within the next few months. With more than six months paid work behind her and a job on release, she will have the best possible chance of successful resettlement.  Working with Bounce Back, we have also recently supported a young woman in securing a receptionist/administration role with an established company in their prestigious head office in London’s West End.

Our work with TfL has grown, with their smart sourcing team really embracing this agenda. We have seen men and women secure everything from track work with TFL contractors to direct employment as customer service assistants and even project work. TFL have run monthly sessions for our clients who want to know more about job opportunities and have helped with applications and interviews. In July they ran a day for women, interested in working in the new Service Control Centre.

Our partnership with Tottenham Hotspur Foundation has seen Rozie Skinner-Matey, our National Account Manager, working as the Construction and Skills Coordinator on the regeneration of the stadium and surrounding area. This has enabled us to find employment and skills training for our beneficiaries across Haringey and surrounding boroughs.

During a recent trip to New York, I had the chance to spend a day with Exodus Transitional Community, which is a wonderful, Harlem-based organisation, helping people with all resettlement pathways. While there are common challenges on both sides of the Atlantic, I was surprised to find that despite “Ban the Box” becoming law in August 2017 in New York City, there are few employers who have identified this route-way as one that can help their businesses. Ban the Box is not having the hoped for effect on employers’ recruitment practices. I heard a number of beneficiaries and their advisors tell me that more people were getting job offers but with the sad consequence that they were then “let go” when the employers carried out their usual pre-employment checks. Watch this space, as I have more to say about this. While I support the principle of “Ban the Box”, it will not make any real difference to the employment of people with convictions if there is no guidance or process behind it

We look forward to 2018 and continuing our work to “reduce reoffending through employment”.

– Maggie Walsh, January 2018

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.

Women

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 .co.uk 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 :

info@afairerchance.co.uk

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

HAPPY BIRTHDAY A FAIRER CHANCE!

As we approach our fifth birthday I have decided to write this blog to update you all on the great achievements and also the great challenges we have faced since we set up.

Firstly I’d like to welcome Len Cheston as our first non-executive Director and Chair of our advisory board. He will be joined by others over the summer and will serve a key role as we move forward.

One of the first decisions we have made is that I will take on the role of Chief Executive, taking a step back from operations to set the direction of travel for A Fairer Chance.

We continue to enjoy great support from our employers. There are many organisations, particularly but not exclusively, in the private sector who are convinced of the business case for employing people with convictions.  Sainsbury’s, who have been with us from day 1 have now employed over 600 people through  A Fairer Chance. This includes serving prisoners in prisons across London and Kent. We have placed people in every role from check-out to full store management. Many of our beneficiaries go into skilled roles such as bakers, butchers and fishmongers. Included in this figure are a number of older workers and people with disabilities as our contractors increasingly ask us to use our quality service to help a range of people disadvantaged in the labour market. Our work with Transport For London, that started through the Employment and Skills team , has spread across the  wider business. A formal process for assessing risk was put into place this year and applied to applications from people with convictions, across the full apprenticeship and graduate recruitment programme. We are particularly proud to have placed three talented young Londoners into roles in project management. The most recent recruit being a young woman we originally met in custody. She was the only woman who applied but came top in all the assessments. Watch this space for the full story!

There is no doubt that the funding to deliver our work in custody has all but disappeared. We do our best work in prison and with beneficiaries on release. At present we receive a significant amount of funding from DWP. While this enables us to work with some ex-offenders in the community, many potential beneficiaries are mandated to the Work Programme. Unfortunately those providers don’t seem to have much experience in this specialist area and people with convictions tell us they are “parked”. We are excited about the plans for “reform prisons” and hope to be able to work through this initiative to both deliver relevant employer led employability training but also to secure work for prisoners on ROTL and on release.

We have been able to continue some of our prison works through a partnership with Prospects that has included bringing employers into HMP Brixton. We have been back there this week recruiting bakers for one of our great companies. 

If I were to have one wish it would be that we could work with any ex-offender, irrespective of where they live, what benefit they are on or, as is more and more common, not on any benefit at all, who wants a job.  To quote one of my companies “A Fairer Chance is our favourite source of recruitment because the people they send us actually want to work”. It is really hard to turn people away because we just aren’t funded to work with them

At A Fairer Chance we have met some great people. Many of our beneficiaries keep in touch with us and volunteer to come into prison with us or assist with outreach. We will  be updating their stories over the next couple of week.

I just want to thank all the staff and supporters of A Fairer Chance who have helped us grow and will support us as we go forward making the business case for recruiting people with convictions.

We would also like to send massive congratulations to our Research and Development Associate Gen and her husband Barry on the birth of their beautiful daughter Maia!

Maggie Walsh MBE

Chief Executive

Recent prison events bring A Fairer Chance back into custody

We were recently delighted to be invited by Prospects to attend a number of successful recruitment events across London prisons in February and March. Our staff attended HMP Brixton, HMYOI Feltham, HMP Belmarsh and HMP Wandsworth, meeting men due to be released within the coming weeks, to give them advice and guidance in their search for a job on release. Prospects are one of the largest providers of custodial IAG (information, advice and guidance), and we were pleased to meet with so many great organisations engaged by Prospects to work in partnership at each of these events, bringing welcome services, support and job opportunities for those in custody, either during their sentence, through the gate or on release. It was a great for us to get back into custody, to do what we do best, and we are grateful for Prospects for granting us this opportunity.

Our role at these events was to attend to discuss employment with prisoners and identify potential barriers they may face in their job search. We gave all the prisoners we met a tailored action plan, as in many instances, potentially the largest barriers that the men we met face way may be their lack of the correct documentation, i.e. a passport, long birth certificate or biometric card proving their right to work in the UK, or having their own bank account. We were also able to advise prisoners to fill in their CV gaps as, so often prisoners in custody prefer not to include the experience gained through work and qualification whilst inside prison, yet often these experiences are valuable in finding work on release, and demonstrate motivation and work ethic to potential emplohand-299675_640yers.

Across all four events, many of the men we met did not have written letters of disclosures, and indeed for the most part, had not heard of disclosure. We have strong views on this subject as it is shown time and time again that a person with convictions starting work before or after the end of a custodial sentence, will have in consequence the best chance of avoiding reoffending. As such, campaigning has taken place in recent years to try to reduce employers asking for disclosure of convictions at the job application stage. There is obvious logic to this drive to allow employers to meet candidates and judge them on their merits, not on the category into which they fall, as an ‘ex-offender’. A Fairer Chance, however, takes a different approach to helping our beneficiaries to find work when it comes to this issue of disclosure.

Whilst we absolutely believe that our clients should not need to be treated differently because of their past, we do have confidence that sending our clients to meet sympathetic employers is a more sustainable approach. Whilst it is possible for candidates to apply for a position without the employer being aware of their convictions, what can happen in consequence is that the conversation arises further along the recruitment process, and may lead to a person with convictions facing the challenge of disclosing in person, without feeling prepared, or having had the support to be ready to do so. They may be subject to the “luck of the draw”, in terms of the attitudes of their interview panel or, further on, managing staff and colleagues. Sometimes, this leads to the accidental violation of people’s right to keep their disclosure limited to only those staff members within an organisation who genuinely need to know, with potential harmful impact on the day to day carrying out of the roles and responsibilities of their job.

One of our first priorities when we work with our beneficiaries with convictions is to ask to see their letter of disclosure, and if they don’t have one, to help them to prepare one. We see first-hand the enormous psychological benefits of going through this process. Whilst it can be challenging to have to focus back on the past and to discuss the circumstances that led to offences, it can also be cathartic, and making a commitment in writing to turning their life around for the better is incredibly rewarding and motivating. In fact, going in to interview with a good disclosure letter is an opportunity for a candidate to show themselves in a positive light to an employer, not open to everyone, and may even set the candidate ahead! And with regard to the protection of employers and the safeguarding of victims in the community, we can be sensitive to any issues when putting candidates forward for interview.

As such, at these recent events we discussed disclosure with the men we met, and invited them to contact us on release for our disclosure guidance, if they had not yet been offered an opportunity to write a letter of disclosure by an organisation within, or shortly after leaving prison. Due to the nature of funding for successful job outcomes for people with convictions, we were unable to guarantee we could help those who we met across the four events, but should they be released to an area in which we have funding arrangements, we hope to meet with them and link them with our enlightened employers.