Tony Adams is fronting a campaign to ask employers to look beyond the past

The Arsenal legend and ex-Big Issue vendor-turned-London’s happiest bus driver Patrick Lawson are part of the Forward Trust’s More Than My Past

Ex-Big Issue vendor Patrick Lawson has been given equal billing with Arsenal football legend Tony Adams in a new campaign asking employers to ignore difficult pasts to allow people to reach their true potential.

The Forward Trust’s More Than My Past campaign kicks off today asking ex-offenders and those in recovery from addiction to share their story and help end the stigma that holds back so many people in the UK.

People in both groups are the least likely to be employed in the UK, according to figures, with three quarters of prisoners having no job on release despite the huge role it plays in preventing re-offending. Meanwhile a quarter of people in recovery have been turned down for jobs three times or more after disclosing their past.

Gunners hero Adams has had a widely disclosed battle with addiction – as he discussed in a revealing Letter To My Younger Self with The Big Issue last year – and even went to prison for drink driving in 1990.

As for Lawson, his spells in prison were interspersed with times spent rough sleeping in London. Last year, he won Hello London Award for Outstanding Community Service at TfL’s London Bus Awards after being dubbed the “happiest bus driver in London”.

The social enterprise bus company he drives for, HCT Group, is one of the campaign’s backers along with catering company Cook and Timpsons, who are renowned for employing former prisoners.

The Forward Trust cite Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development research that reckons employers need to seek out new pools of talent to fill the void left by Brexit’s impact on the labour market.

And the charity’s chiefs believe that ex-offenders and those recovering from addiction could fill the breach.

“We know that, if we show a belief in their ability to make a positive change, and give them the opportunity to prove themselves, prisoners can do amazing things,” said Mike Trace, The Forward Trust CEO. “We want the general public and employers to share our belief in this untapped potential and do something to support people to be more than their past”.

HCT Group chief executive Dai Powell added: “We believe that someone’s history shouldn’t define them. We’re proud to support the ‘More Than My Past’ campaign as we believe in the potential of people whose past may not have been perfect. So many individuals still face too many barriers to employment due to a criminal past. But if they are given a chance they can – and do – turn their lives around to become valuable members of society.”

Image: The Forward Trust