Boosting engagement and inclusion through ex-offender employment
By Jo Faragher on 31 January 2020
Leaving prison can be difficult enough, but one thing that is sure to help someone help get their life back on track is a job – the security of a routine, access to finance and the chance to build new relationships. Only 17% of ex-offenders manage to get a job within a year of release, according to the Ministry of Justice, yet those who do manage to secure a role are nine percentage points less likely to reoffend. Despite the fact that more than half of employers struggle to fill vacancies due to skills shortages, many organisations still have reservations about hiring someone who has spent time in prison.
The New Futures Network (NFN) was set up in 2018. It is the specialist part of the prison service covering prisons in England and Wales, which brokers partnerships between prisons and employers. These partnerships support prisons to find ex-offenders employment on release, and in doing so addresses the skills and recruitment gaps businesses face. NFN is now working with more than 400 employers to support them to take on what it considers to be a rich source of talent – offenders often have relevant work experience and skills in a range of industries. In fact, businesses who employ ex-offenders report higher levels of loyalty and retention, which reduces recruitment costs and boosts engagement overall.
Duncan O’Leary, CEO, New Futures Network, says: “NFN works with leading businesses across a range of industries where there are proven employment shortages. NFN brokers are here to provide tailored support to businesses to make the right connections with prisons; to develop the employment opportunities that best suit your organisations; and field skilled and committed candidates to take up employment.”
Imaging and electronics company Ricoh is one such employer that has enjoyed the benefits of recruiting ex-offenders, which it has done for more than five years.
Providing career opportunities and tailored support is critical for people who face barriers to work. Imaging and electronics company, Ricoh has been opening up their recruitment process to ex-offenders for more than five years and is a member of Business in the Community’s Ban the Box Campaign, which removes the convictions tick-box at the first-stage application process.
As a responsible business, Ricoh is committed to helping reduce reoffending rates and welcomes placements through the Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) system, which allows day release for work and training. Over the last three years Ricoh has also facilitated more than 20 free Employability Workshops to prisons across the UK. Serving offenders receive invaluable careers advice and guidance. These workshops are just as beneficial for Ricoh, widening and diversifying its talent pool and allowing Ricoh employees the opportunity to volunteer and have a positive impact on a prisoner’s life, which has also increased their staff engagement.
Another NFN partner, retailer Halfords, has its own prison academy to train up and recruit ex-offenders, and found that retention levels from prisoners were actually higher than those of ‘normal’ employed sales floor workers.
More than 11,000 prisoners are employed in prisons today in hundreds of businesses and government departments. If your business is considering recruiting serving prisoners, one option is to work with risk assessed prisoners on ROTL as Ricoh have done. This offers employers a chance to train individuals where necessary and test their skills, while providing the individual with relevant work experience and the opportunity to earn some money to help them upon their release. High street retailer Timpson is one such employer that employs prisoners on day release – in fact 10% of its workforce is recruited from prisons. NFN can support your business to explore options related to this offer.
If you’re looking to employ a prisoner once they have been released, NFN will work with your business and the prison to put forward potential candidates that fit with the skills and experience required for your vacancies. They can arrange for a meeting with potential candidates prior to release, so there is a good fit. It may not be as straightforward as recruiting from the non-offender talent pool – different organisations may have different policies on what offences are deemed acceptable when it comes to recruiting someone with a criminal record, for example, and background screening may take longer. NFN can put you in touch with other corporate or third sector organisations, who will share advice on best practice for recruitment and supporting individuals taking up employment.
There is a strong case for employing ex-offenders both in terms of the business (access to talent and better retention) and diversity agendas. Many businesses say that ex-offenders make loyal and dedicated employees. A YouGov survey found that 92% of inclusive employers believe that employing ex-offenders has enhanced their reputation, while 79% of people think that employing ex-offenders means an organisation is making a positive contribution to society. It’s more than a list of positives on paper, too – two-thirds of companies that employ ex-offenders would recommend others to do the same.
For more information and support and to register your interest in offender employment, visit https://offenderemployment.campaign.gov.uk/
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