Employment

Charities call for multifaceted approach to help ex-offenders into work

Following Justice Secretary Dominic Raab's call for more action on helping ex-offenders into employment, UK rehabilitation charities have emphasised the need for support in multiple areas to prevent re-offending.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak visits a branch of Timpson, where 10 per cent of the workforce are ex-offenders.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak visits a branch of Timpson, where 10 per cent of the workforce are ex-offenders. Image: HMTreasury/Flickr

Charities have praised the government’s renewed ambition to help ex-offenders into employment but stressed the need for a multifaceted approach to tackling re-offending. 

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab called for a renewed focus on supporting people into work when they leave prison in a meeting with business leaders on Thursday, highlighting  three areas: making sure jobs are well advertised in prisons, that ex-offenders are fully equipped to work, and an aim for every resettlement prison to have a board of local employers to better connect the institutions with local businesses. 

While welcomed as a positive step by charities, several told The Big Issue a joined-up approach including housing, additional support and a reduction in the length of time ex-offenders are obliged to disclose previous convictions would go a long way to improving employment rates and reducing re-offending.

Raab acknowledged that ex-offenders face numerous obstacles upon leaving prison and suggested that work was on-going across government regarding other elements of support.

Angela Cairns, chief executive of rehabilitation charity Unlock, said the proposals “do not go far enough, the things that have been announced aren’t necessarily radical or new, and they are things that should be in place anyway.

“We are positive about employers being encouraged to employ people with criminal records [but] people need secure housing, they need employment, they need support around them to get on with their life.

“This initiative builds on a lot of things which were going on previous to Dominic Raab coming into post. We want to see people in those roles and doing those jobs and attitudes beginning to change. The proof is always in the results.”

New research commissioned by the Ministry of Justice showed 90 per cent of businesses which currently employ ex-offenders gave positive feedback on doing so, citing reliability and trustworthiness as character traits. However, just 14 per cent of offenders get a job in the first six months of leaving prison, Raab said.

The UK is currently facing a labour shortage as the most recent labour market statistics showed there are more than a million job vacancies across the country and a record low number of people available to fill them. Lower migration due to Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic are among the root causes, leading to food and fuel shortages across the country due to a lack of drivers.

Francesca Findlater, founder of ex-offender training and employment charity Bounce Back said: “The principle is great, I can think of nothing I want more than for people’s perception to change and for them to think about people leaving prison differently.

“However, you can’t just go into prison and get a bunch of HGV drivers, it’s not as simple as that.

“A lot of work has to be done, preparing people who maybe have never worked before, people who really need guidance.” 

And employment can play a big part in reducing the chances of re-offending but it is not the only factor.

Sam Julius, policy and public affairs manager at Nacro, a social justice charity whose work includes supporting people in custody and ex-offenders, said  “prison leavers without a stable home are 50 per cent more likely to reoffend. 

“If the government could provide a broad support package for people who leave prison, they are going to do a lot more to cut re-offending and this will help with homelessness as well. 

“From our perspective, the main thing you can do to help prison leavers is provide housing. The government announced earlier this year some funding for temporary accommodation for prison leavers, but so far they’ve only announced one year’s worth of funding. 

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“We agree with the government, more needs to be done to remove the barriers to employment […] but these issues can’t be looked at in silos. 

“For example, if you have an employer who looks at the application of someone who has all the skills but that employer doesn’t want to hire someone coming out of prison, then it doesn’t matter that they have the skills.

“Implementing the policy will be a matter of political will and funding.” 

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