Supporting ex-offenders and people in recovery from addiction into work
The UK economy faces significant skills gaps: Sectors such as construction, hospitality and catering, transport, and waste management require tens of thousands of new workers in the next few years.
However, ex-offenders and people in recovery from addiction - one potential source of labour to bridge these gaps - are excluded from the workplace: In a recent survey of Forward clients, 75%
felt that they would be turned down for work by disclosing their criminal record or addiction. Nearly 50% had experienced rejection for work on these grounds.
Ex-offenders and people in recovery are highly motivated to work: Despite their experience of exclusion, this same survey showed that over 80% of prisoners and people in recovery want to work
and feel capable of holding down a job and of contributing to society.
They have the potential to become committed, loyal and resilient employees: In the last 12 years, Forward has employed and supported over 2,000 ex-offenders and people in recovery. Over 40% of those employed on temporary work placements (through Forward’s Blue Sky Agency) progress to higher skilled and better-paid jobs with our partner companies. Similarly, 76% of graduates of Forward’s apprentice programme for people in recovery have secured permanent employment.
But they need support to realise this potential, especially when leaving prison: While improved access to vocational training, personal development and employment opportunities within prison is
welcomed, continued support is needed ‘through the gate’ in the community – support that needs to be motivational, streamlined, and focussed on skills, achievements and ambitions.
Employment brings personal, business, social and economic benefits: As well as self-esteem, pride, purpose, and being a role model for family members, employment for ex-offenders and people in
recovery brings real benefits to companies who take them on. The state also benefits – £18,600 is generated for every ex-offender who completes Blue Sky Agency’s employment programme.
In order to maximise these benefits on a greater scale, Forward recommends that:
• Learn from companies who already recruit ex-offenders and people in recovery and have overcome institutional and internal barriers in changing policy and practice
• Work with specialist agencies to de-risk the recruitment process, navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system, and provide in-work support for new recruits
• Challenge supply chain partners (and recruitment agencies) to change discriminatory policy and practice, adding social value in the process
Prison Governors and criminal justice policy makers
• Make real jobs the central goal of the service user journey – less repetitive needs assessment, and more focus on skills and achievements relevant to the real world of work
• Make data available to employers and agencies on releasing patterns across the prison estate
• Establish clear responsibility for employment outcomes across the Prisoner Education Framework, Transforming Rehabilitation and the Work & Health Programme
• Incentivise employers through tax breaks to employ ex-offenders and people in recovery
Prisoners, ex-offenders and people in recovery
• Utilise training and employment opportunities in prison, and reference them in job interviews
• Know their rights and understand what they need to disclose, and practise how to disclose it
• Draw hope and inspiration from peers who have gained employment and moved forward in life
The Skills Gap
The Experience of ex-offenders and people in recovery from addiction
A survey of Forward clients found that: