Singing at Sainsbury’s: Chris

Chris“When I first met A Fairer Chance, I had only been out of prison for two months after serving three years of a five year sentence for possession with intent to supply class A drugs. If I am completely honest, because of the conviction I had and the length of sentence I received, I thought there was no hope of getting work. I’m not a pessimist but in the back of my head I was sure I would end up needing to break the law to survive. I have two young sons to provide for and I felt helpless.

Before going to prison, I had worked all my life and was a hard worker. I wanted to work but felt I was knocked back at every opportunity due to my conviction. In November 2012, the organisation that was supposedly helping me into work invited me to meet A Fairer Chance. I was reluctant at first, because I thought it was just another undermining, pointless exercise that will fall short of the promises made to me, however after attending the initial vetting process, I was completely surprised by the way in which A Fairer Chance came across. It was a breath of fresh air.

A Fairer Chance saw something in me and said they wanted to work with me. Rozie, the National Account Manager, and I worked together to write a personal letter of disclosure not only to explain my previous convictions, but to also highlight all the positive things I had achieved and why I would be an asset to an employer. A Fairer Chance informed me that as they worked with Sainsbury’s and they knew about some Christmas temp vacancies at a store near me. They explained that Sainsbury’s is an amazing employer who operate a ‘You Can’ programme; providing opportunities to people who might otherwise face barriers into employment, such as myself. Rozie arranged the interview and I was shocked and happy to learn that I had been successful and would be starting the role at the beginning of December 2012. I was sad to hear that as a temporary role, it was only going to be for six weeks, but I really enjoyed my new role and knew it was a big step forward. At the end of the six weeks, I was over the moon when the store told me that they would like to keep me on and give me a permanent contract.

Work was going really well; I really enjoyed being employed full time and providing for my family. After almost a year, a special opportunity arose through the BBC programme, ‘The choir, sing while you work’, who picked our store to appear in their show. They were looking for store colleagues to be a part of the company choir and compete against other businesses. Although I was nervous, I thought it would be a good experience so I signed up and was luckily selected for the show. It was great fun working with the team and learning songs to perform. As part of the shows I was asked to talk about my experience at Sainsbury’s and I even disclosed my past on the show. It felt really good to do this as the show was positive, and showed me that Sainsbury’s were behind me 100% and that I was not being judged on my past.

After the show, things went from strength to strength for me. I was selected to take part in training and soon became a team leader. I have now been a team leader in a number of departments and next month will have completed three years’ service since starting out with my ‘six week temp job’.

I am really grateful and praise God every day for the opportunity A Fairer Chance helped to find and my employer, Sainsbury’s, for giving me a second chance. Sainsbury’s have given me every opportunity of having a good career. Having been promoted once already, I am now on the shortlist again for a promotion to be a Department Manager in Training within six months. This has proven that there are employers who will not discriminate on the basis of a person’s background.

I can honestly say that without A Fairer Chance working to help and support people such as myself, I would be in a difficult position facing the many barriers and obstacles on my own, which leaves a person at risk of reoffending in order to survive. Thank you again.”