Those convicted of crimes in the UK can find their punishment continues long after their sentence has been served in jail. Ex-offenders face a multitude of obstacles inhibiting their route to successful employment, and this is often the significant factor that causes them to re-offend. In a recent statement, Jack Straw outlined the government’s plans to tackle some of the barriers inhibiting the rehabilitation of offenders. The Justice Secretary planned measures that were “focused on tackling drug use among offenders and providing opportunities for offenders to learn the new skills which might help them to a life away from crime outside prison.” A range of trusts and initiatives have already showed results in helping offenders escape this vicious cycle.

Those convicted of crimes in the UK can find their punishment continues long after their sentence has been served in jail. Ex-offenders face a multitude of obstacles inhibiting their route to successful employment, and this is often the significant factor that causes them to re-offend. In a recent statement, Jack Straw outlined the government’s plans to tackle some of the barriers inhibiting the rehabilitation of offenders. The Justice Secretary planned measures that were “focused on tackling drug use among offenders and providing opportunities for offenders to learn the new skills which might help them to a life away from crime outside prison.” A range of trusts and initiatives have already showed results in helping offenders escape this vicious cycle.

Last year, the CIPD’s ‘Employing ex-offenders to capture talent’ survey highlighted the benefits employers can gain from employing ex-offenders. It proved the majority of individuals with previous convictions who managed to obtain jobs turned out to be committed and hard working employees.

Dianah Worman, CIPD’s diversity advisor, said: “We have found that, contrary to popular perception, employers of ex-offenders tend to have positive experiences. The evidence suggests in reality they [ex-offenders] don’t stick out like sore thumbs, and can sometimes do even better as employees.”

Despite this, the survey found only “a third of organisations are aware of programmes provided to support the rehabilitation of offenders in prison or those who are under the supervision of the probation service.” Additionally, 57 per cent of organisations with more than 5,000 staff wanted to find out about such programmes. In total, 49 per cent of employers expressed a desire for more information, which suggests “encouraging” interest in the subject, and the demand for a communication strategy to popularise what is available.

Worman stresses “this is a subject that needs more activity to raise awareness, because naturally employers are not inclined to promote the fact that they employ ex-offenders. What employers need is the information that makes them overcome fears to ensure a successful relation.”

The Apex Trust is an organisation which aims to do just that. It runs projects alongside both prison and probation to help bridge the gap between ex-offenders and employers, and also provides those with previous convictions with the skills needed to survive in the labour market. The charitable trust provides a National Help Line (JobCheck) to give consistent, easily accessed information. The free support includes direct information regarding offender employment, education and rights issues, and the advice is given either on a one-to-one or group session basis. Last year, over 11,000 clients were assisted through projects co-ordinated by the organisation. The trust also offers an assessment process which addresses issues such as offending history, transferable skills, and work history to further ensure efficient employment cohesion.

An important part of the Apex Trust’s aim is to work with employers to break down the barriers which obstruct the employment of ex-offenders. Other initiatives, like that championed by Sector Skills Council Energy & Utility Skills (EU Skills) and funded by ESS, offer an increased emphasis on education for the convicted individual. EU Skills, in partnership with a variety of training providers, worked with the Probation Service in Yorkshire and Humberside to train ex-offenders with a variety of short courses. The scheme is now coming to an end, but has helped secure jobs for more than 50 people to date.

Ronnie Stephenson, the skills director of EU Skills, said: “We had a target of training 168 ex-offenders, and we’ve managed to overshoot that by providing over 200 people with industry recognised qualifications.”

However, taking people out of the re-offending spiral is not simple, as Stephenson mentions “it wasn’t all plain sailing, there were issues concerning things like drugs and the types of sentences. Also, because many have never worked before, there were unique barriers involving time keeping, and travel. So there was a lot of hand holding initially.”

Stephenson continues: “All in all, if we got one into a job it would have been a success. The fact that we’ve achieved these results is of course even better."

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Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

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