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