People who choose to break the law should rightly be punished by being locked away in prison. But when it is time for them to be released back into society, the majority will find themselves not locked in but locked out – from getting jobs.
This matters because research shows that offenders who have jobs on release are less likely to reoffend than those who don’t.
It’s an issue for all of us who are put at risk of further crime and left with an £18bn bill every year to cover reoffending costs.
Getting prison leavers into steady jobs is a win-win. It cuts crime which makes the public safer and provides the additional staff that businesses need to drive the British economy.
More than 40 business leaders from companies including performance car manufacturer Lotus, Murphy construction group and TalkTalk have committed to lead a drive to get hundreds of prisoners into work.
They’ll do this by chairing one of the new Employment Advisory Boards being rolled out across England
and Wales. These boards – made up of local business people – will improve employment outcomes for ex-offenders by bringing commercial insight into prisons about employers’ needs. Crucially, they help prison governors to better understand their local labour market so that training and workshops for prisoners can be tailored to plug existing skills gaps.
Today I’ll be encouraging even more businesses to back the initiative when I attend the first ever Employment Advisory Board conference in Manchester.
There have been a host of great examples of the work being done, including from the board at HMP Northumberland. Board members helped connect the prison with a property company, Adderstone Group. Today, multiple former prisoners work with them full time and are invaluable members of the team.
Time after time business leaders have highlighted to me the benefit of employing prison leavers. In a survey, 80 percent of employers who have taken on ex-offenders said they are “motivated, reliable, good at their job and trustworthy”.
Employment Advisory Boards are the brainchild of Timpson CEO, James Timpson, who will host today’s conference in partnership with the New Futures Network, the Prison Service’s specialist employment team.
He has pioneered offender recruitment for almost twenty years and currently employs over 600 prison leavers.
And that’s just one company.
I am convinced more businesses can and should recruit ex-offenders. But I realise that the government and prisons also have to pull their weight by putting in place measures to make it happen.
The training and qualifications available in prisons must equip offenders for work and build the skills and attributes employers really need in today’s economy. Prisoners also need to be aware of opportunities and supported by prison staff committed to getting them work ready.
Finally, we need to keep up with the changing world of business. As more and more job applications are now done online, we’ll use technology that will allow prisoners to interview for jobs while in custody.
We wouldn’t ask businesses to do something we are not doing ourselves. Last summer, we announced our ambition to hire 1,000 prison leavers into Civil Service roles.
I am determined to see barriers removed so businesses can hire more prison leavers who want to turn around their lives. We need more firms on board with our mission to secure employment opportunities for ex-offenders and make our streets safer.
Join us in protecting the public through unlocking better lives for ex-offenders seeking a second chance.