Activism

Big Issue Invest backs scheme getting ex-offenders into work

The Big Issue's supported lending arm is helping fund The Skill Mill's efforts to get vulnerable 16-18-year-olds back on track

An innovative new programme will help vulnerable young people break the cycle of re-offending and get into work, with the help of The Big Issue’s lending and support scheme.

The Skill Mill is running an intensive project that will employ 224 young people for six months each, helping them gain a nationally recognised qualification as well as work experience, a wage and support to move into further employment or training.

Young people with convictions or involvement in anti-social behaviour from across seven local authorities will be offered a six-month job with in-built support designed to address the challenges they face and prepare them for a successful future away from the criminal justice system.

The jobs on offer are mostly in construction and environmental maintenance – shown to boost mental and physical wellbeing through lots of time spent outdoors.

In 2013 The Skill Mill was launched to directly employ young people between 16 and 18 who have convictions and reduce reoffending while boosting employability and education levels for the vulnerable youngsters to increase their future opportunities.

The participants also earn a Level 2 AQA qualification in employability skills.

The Skill Mill managing director David Parks said: “This programme is the culmination of many months of hard work and dedication from all partners who are committed to improving the life chances of some of the most vulnerable young people in society.

“These young people who have been drawn into criminality need a realistic opportunity to break the cycle. The Skill Mill achieves this by helping to change their identity from one of offender to an employee with legitimate income, self-respect and a desire to change their behaviour and contribute positively to society and the economy.”

It’s a unique collaboration between social enterprise The Skill Mill, local and central government, local employers and social investors like Big Issue Invest.

The programme is commissioned by Birmingham, Croydon, Durham, Leeds, Nottingham, Rochdale and Surrey local authorities, with support from the Life Chances Fund. The Youth Justice Board (England and Wales) is also on board to advise the project.

And it’s funded by an exciting social impact bond – a set-up meaning the provider, in this case The Skill Mill, is paid for successfully preventing young people from reoffending. As well as Big Issue Invest, the project is being backed by Northstar Ventures, CAF Venturesome and the Resonance West Midlands SITR Fund.

Sergio Sanchez, investment manager for Big Issue Invest, said: “We are proud to be supporters of The Skill Mill programme providing training, employment and opportunities for young ex-offenders.

“This is an exciting partnership providing much needed support and opportunities for young people at a time when opportunities for work are required now more than ever. The programme links closely to our group mission to support the most vulnerable in society with self-help solutions to provide people with the tools to lift themselves out of poverty.”

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