Happy 10th Birthday to us!

I hadn’t posted for a bit as I foolishly broke my leg and then had a short staycation.

But I am writing today as, all of a sudden, we are TEN YEARS OLD. Yes, A Fairer Chance is ten years old, and I can look back over this time with real pride when I consider all the things our fabulous team have achieved.

  • Over 2000 people into “good” work
  • Over 300 people employed on ROTL
  • Over 3000 people assisted through attending our amazing prison Jobs Fairs or through our one-to-one support.
  • Our “Women’s Work” that has grown into something truly amazing.

When we set up A Fairer Chance, we decided we should be a social business, and not a charity, as we were asking employers to look at the business reasons for employing people with convictions.

That approach stills serves us well. There is room for a lot of different models in this world. Some jobseekers will need a different approach and more support. We see ourselves as a talent acquisition organisation. We work closely with our employers to better understand their skills and labour shortages and to influence prison delivered, skills and training, to meet those needs

I am delighted to say that the employers who supported us, on day one, still work with us today. Some managers say we are their only source of recruitment.

We set up A Fairer Chance on the understanding that there was enough money in the “Welfare to Work” and wider criminal justice system to support a business. There have been some changes and sometimes it is very difficult for a small business to meet the requirements of complicated grant applications ……but we are still here

We also sought other funding and with Lendlease, (Be Onsite) and Bounceback leading the way we achieved fantastic outcomes, both in terms of jobs and employers engaged on the CITB funded, Mind the Gap project.

We are planning a few low scale celebrations primarily where we will be meeting up with our former jobseekers and we are looking forward to the next ten years

Thank you all for your best wishes and ongoing support

Remember, everyone needs “something to do, somewhere to live and someone to give a damn”

Maggie Walsh MBE


A Fairer Chance

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 info@afairerchance.co.uk.

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


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