Statement in Response to Secretary of State's Speech at Conservative Party Conference
Wednesday 04 October 2017

On 3rd October 2017 the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt Hon David Lidington MP, set out the details of his plans for a new national task force to match offenders with employers and make sure training in prisons mirrors the demands in the local jobs market, as well as his plans for additional intelligence-led counter-drone operations in prison to reduce the supply of illegal substances.

Kate Markey, Divisional Director of Employment Services at Forward, the leading social business that empowers people to break the cycle of crime or addiction, said: “We commend the Ministry of Justice’s commitment to supporting ex-offenders to find employment through this new task force. Our experience of helping over 1,400 former prisoners and ex-offenders to find work through our Blue Sky employment agency is that people need tailored support to break the cycle of re-offending and addiction through training and employment activities that are grounded in the real world of work, as well as the support of peers who have been through similar experiences and transformed their lives for the better.”

Mike Trace, CEO of Forward, said: “Whilst we also applaud the Ministry of Justice’s concerted efforts to restrict the supply of illegal substances to prisons, our experience of delivering front line drug services for over twenty five years is that reducing supply needs to go hand in hand with effective drug and alcohol treatment services. We need to replace the pressure prisoners experience to become involved in using and dealing drugs with a culture where peer support and expectation leads to prisoners genuinely wanting to become and remain drug free. By creating this culture, prisoners feel safe and supported to seek the help they need to tackle the causes and consequences of their addiction, to make a long term change. We believe that anyone is capable of transformational change, no matter how entrenched their addiction or prolific their crimes, and we hope that these new initiatives will give more people the support they need to move forward with their lives.”

Blue Sky Agency is one route to how Forward helps ex-offenders into employment. The model has been proven to reducing reoffending by up to 23 % (1). An estimated 55% of prisoners commit offences connected to their drug tacking or alcohol dependence (2). Forward’s intensive prison rehabilitation programme shows an 18% drop in re conviction rates (3) yet less than 2% of the prison population have access to the programme.



Editor’s Notes:
Interviews with Mike Trace, CEO, and Forward clients are available on request.

For interviews, photos or further information please contact Amy Williams, Community Communications Manager:; 07795 024 273 or 020 3752 5604 or visit


  • Ministry of Justice Data Lab Re-offending analysis: Blue Sky Agency 2013
  • Ministry of Justice 2016
  • Kopak, A. M., Dean, L. V., Proctor, S. L., Miller, L., & Hoffmann, N. G. (2014) ‘Effectiveness of the rehabilitation for addicted prisoners trust (RAPt) programme’, Journal of Substance Use, [Online] pp.1-8. Available from: doi:10.3109/14659891.2014.904938.

About Forward

We are Forward, the social business that empowers people to break the cycle of crime or addiction to move forward with their lives. For more than 25 years we have been working with people to build positive and productive lives, whatever their past. We believe that anyone is capable of lasting change. Our services have supported thousands of people to make positive changes and build productive lives with a job, family, friends and a sense of community.