Ex-prisoners will receive support to start their own businesses with a new fund backed by London's high sheriff

Courtney Goldsmith
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The scheme aims to keep ex-prisoners from re-offending (Source: Getty)

James Furber, the high sheriff of Greater London, has thrown his weight behind a new fund that aims to help people leaving prison become entrepreneurs.

The programme will provide inmates with peer and professional mentors who will assist them with business planning and personal development.

Successful candidates will be given the cash they need on release to start their own business.

The scheme was launched by Beating Time, an organisation that provides choirs in prisons, and Enterprise Exchange, which runs self-employment courses in prisons.

Read more: Entre-perp-neurs? Turning prisoners into entrepreneurs could save £1.4bn

"Visiting prisons I see huge potential in many prisoners," said Furber.

"We’ve doubled our prison population in the last 20 years. If we want change, we have to create the opportunity to change, which is why I’m supporting this initiative by Enterprise Exchange and Beating Time.”

In the year ending June 2016, 74,713 people were released from prison in England and Wales. Only 27 per cent of those people found work.

Re-offending is another common problem that stable employment could help solve, the two companies said.

The current prison population is around 85,000, yet for those serving sentences under 12 months, 60 per cent will go on to re-offend in the year after their release. Stable employment reduces the probability of re-offending by up to 50 per cent.

Beating Time and Enterprise Exchange are approaching entrepreneurs and businesses to contribute to an opportunity fund to finance the entrepreneurship programme and provide the seed capital to kick-start the businesses that emerge from it.

"This is the kind of collaborative, innovative and entrepreneurial approach we need, if we are to turn people who have served prison sentences into societal assets, rather than liabilities," said Phil Ashford, director of Enterprise Exchange.

Ashford added: "In addition to a well thought through business plan, we will have had the chance over a 10-week period to see how well candidates cope with new challenges, interact, collaborate and network. We’ll see how committed they are. We’ll put them under the pressure of a performance and know how they react to that.

"Building a business is about more than a good idea and a business plan. Our investors, want to know who we are investing in, not just what."

Read more: Why sheriffs of London cherish the City's power

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