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26 July 2018 | By Val Corbett Campaign

The benefits of employing ex-offenders

UK businesses can tap into new talent to fill their skills shortages – and there is increasing support available to help them do so

When my husband died in 2012 after 34 years in Parliament, first as an MP then in the Lords, I wanted to honour his 10-year legacy as Chair of the All-Party Prison Reform Group. The result was the Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Re-integration, administered by the Prison Reform Trust.

The Awards fund charities who support people in prison and post release to gain the necessary skills to find a job, to get their lives back on track, as well as helping to reducing re-offending.

Through this – as well as my work running the Corbett Network and Professional Women’s Network – I often hear about the skills shortages faced by UK business and how it is holding back our economic recovery. Many employers across a range of sectors report that they increasingly struggle to find people with the right talent, skills, abilities and mind-set to fill their vacancies. Brexit will make this situation more challenging still.

A ready talent pool

There are currently around 11 million people in the country who have criminal convictions, including ex-offenders who have been to prison. These people possess a wide range of skills, qualifications and experience that businesses need, so it makes real business sense to consider looking past their past and employing them.

Large employers, including Timpson, Virgin Trains, Greggs and Keltbray as well as less well-known SMEs, that already employ ex-offenders say that these employees are highly loyal and reliable. Ex-offenders often stay at their companies for longer than average employees and often rise-up through the ranks to become managers. This is due to the higher emphasis they place on their job as a second chance to re-integrate into society and, far more importantly, to stay out of prison.

The societal impact of employing people who have criminal records or who have been to prison is also something for businesses to consider.

Reoffending costs around £15bn annually. Employment is key to breaking the cycle of reoffending for individuals and their families, providing children with role models they can follow into employment, instead of crime.

Actively hiring former prisoners is proven to reduce reoffending by up to 9 percentage points. Most offenders want the opportunity to turn their backs on crime and having a job helps them get their lives back on track.

A strategy to help

In May this year the Ministry of Justice launched its Education and Employment Strategy, which set out measures to boost prisoners’ skills while in custody and improve their chances of securing work on release. This included the formation of a new body, the New Futures Network, which will work side-by-side with employers to generate job opportunities. Once set up, it will provide a key role in linking local businesses directly with their local prisons and will help establish best practice. 

When asked why they don’t employ ex-offenders most businesses point to issues of unreliability and trust as major concerns. It is understandable that employers may worry about the risks attached and the perceived impact it could have on their business and their employees. But I strongly believe that once they see the benefits to their business, these concerns can be minimised.

No charity or business would place a person with convictions into a job interview without rigorous risk assessment and without the applicant being job-ready.

To address concerns and help businesses to tap into this new talent pool that they may not have considered before, the Corbett Network is organising a business event with social justice charity Nacro on 21 September 2018.

Hosted by Eversheds Sutherland in St Pauls, central London, the Tapping into new talent free employer event, will give employers the opportunity to hear from and network with businesses already benefitting from this valuable recruitment source.

There will also be the chance to meet ex-offenders working for these businesses, learn about recruitment best practice and be inspired by the innovative approaches being pioneered in the construction and hospitality sectors – creating work ready and fully trained employees on release.

I would urge businesses who are suffering from skills shortages or who are interested in finding out more about the benefits employing ex-offenders can bring to their business to come along to the event and I very much hope to see you there.

To register for the event visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/tapping-into-talent-a-corbett-network-employer-event-tickets-47807394203

If you are unable to attend the event but would like to find out more or register your interest in employing ex-offenders please visit: https://offenderemployment.campaign.gov.uk/

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