Ex-offenders and people in recovery from addiction could help plug post-Brexit skills gaps
Monday 27 November 2017

Ex-offenders and people in recovery from addiction could help plug post-Brexit skills gaps

Ex-offenders and people in recovery from addiction could help fill the UK workforce shortages expected post-Brexit, according to a report released today by The Forward Trust.

 Over 83,000 people are released each year from prison – 75% of them have no job to go to. ‘Bridging the gaps’, released today, reveals that 80% of prisoners and people in recovery from addiction say they are motivated and ready for work. Despite this, nearly three quarters believe that disclosing their past will lead to them being turned down for work, and half have experienced rejection for work on these grounds.

There are also tens of thousands of people in recovery from addiction in the UK. These two groups create a significant labour force that can be utilised to help fill the growing recruitment crisis facing many UK industries, especially within the hospitality, construction, transport and waste management sectors. Unfortunately, these are the two groups that employers are least likely to take on. Forward’s experience of employing over 2,000 ex-offenders and people in recovery from addiction shows that they make loyal and valuable members of staff. 

Mike Trace, CEO of The Forward Trust said:

“Forward has helped over 2,000 ex-offenders and people in recovery from addiction to enter work through direct employment in our own organisation, and employment with partner employers through our Blue Sky Agency. Our experience has shown that people are capable of lasting change. We believe that by utilising the motivations of this group we can support industries fill their workforce gaps, reduce reoffending and relapse, and realise the potential of people to turn their lives around.”

 “Today Forward is calling on more employers to step forward and work with us and with prisons to offer opportunities to our client group and to make the bridge into employment easier.”


Full report can be seen here https://www.forwardtrust.org.uk/media/1456/bridging-the-gaps-final.pdf

For further information contact Chris Wingrove, Head of Communications on 020 3752 5576: 07881022489 or email chris.wingrove@forwardtrust.org.uk



About Forward
The Forward Trust:  

The Forward Trust is social business that empowers people to break the cycle of crime or addiction to move forward with their lives. For more than 25 years Forward has been working with people to build positive and productive lives, whatever their past. Forward believes that anyone is capable of lasting change. Its services have supported thousands of people to make positive changes and build productive lives with a job, family, friends and a sense of community.
To find out more please visit www.forwardtrust.org.uk


Blue Sky, part of The Forward Trust, has 11 years’ experience of working with employers to help them access highly committed, local candidates who are all ex-offenders. Blue Sky’s award-winning employment model reduces re-offending by up to 23% (source: Ministry of Justice Data Lab), one of the highest scores recorded. Working across a growing range of sectors, Blue Sky helps employers add social value into operational expenditure by offering work opportunities to ex-offenders. For every ex-offender employed through Blue Sky, £18,600 is saved for the public purse. To find out more please visit www.blueskydevelopment.co.uk 


Executive Summary of Report


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 Government
  • 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