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