We were delighted to see the latest MOJ release that some of the UK’s biggest and most progressive companies have deepened their commitment to get people in prison into work on release, and that this has played a pivotal role in the rising numbers of prison leavers in employment 6 months after release – almost two thirds between April 2021 and March 2022, from 14 per cent to 23 per cent.
According to government statistics, reoffending is reduced by up to nine percentage points for those who have employment compared to those who do not have a job upon release. Given that reoffending costs the public purse £18 billion per year, beyond the negative impacts on individuals and communities impacted by offending, helping those at a risk of reoffending to secure sustained employment has a ripple effect far beyond the individual.
Since the City & Guilds Foundation launched our Future Skills Commission for Prisons at the end of 2019, we have seen an increased focus on whether skills delivered in prison are leading to genuine employment outcomes. The Prisons White Paper published by the Deputy Prime Minister outlined a strategy to reduce reoffending that put a significant focus in getting prisoners into work both within prison and upon release.
City & Guilds Fellow and Future Skills in Prison Commissioner James Timpson OBE, alongside Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, was instrumental in overhauling targets for employment rates of prisoners.
Central to the approach was to appoint pioneering companies have been as Employment Advisory Board (EAB) chairs at all 92 resettlement prisons. EABs play a key role in offenders’ transition from resettlement prisons to life after incarceration. The new EAB chairs will leverage their business expertise by providing insight into the skills, qualifications and training that prisons need to help prisoners re-enter the workforce. This knowledge will help prisons to tailor their skills and training offerings to support demand within their local labour markets, ensuring that ex-offenders are equipped for existing jobs upon release.
Since the EABs were launched in March 2022, we at City & Guilds have had the honour of being represented on a number of EABs around the country and have seen their impact firsthand. Yesterday’s announcement is an exciting continuation of the Boards’ work thus far and we are delighted to see so many of our friends and partners playing such key roles and really walking the talk when it comes to tackling the levels of reoffending and in helping to boost the economy.
Jon Murphy, CEO of Murphy Group, EAB Chair at HMP Berwyn and multi-year recipient of the prestigious Princess Royal Training Awards is one of the latest appointments. When asked about the work of the EABs, he said:
There are so many benefits to hiring prison leavers. Most of all it provides employers with a talent pool to tap into so we can continue to grow our workforce. Employment Advisory Boards are reinforcing the importance of skills and meaningful work of prisoners – helping transform the lives of prison leavers and allowing us to hire dedicated and hardworking staff.
In this week’s announcement, Greggs (whose Chief Executive, Roisin Currie is also a Commissioner of the City & Guilds Foundation Future Skills for Prisons) said:
At Greggs, we pride ourselves on our culture, creating an environment which is inclusive of everyone. Being an inclusive business also means making it easier for people who might face challenges with getting a job.
This news, alongside the increasingly expansive opportunities to put quality education and training programmes in prison (such as apprenticeships, bootcamps, and academies), means there are many reasons to be optimistic that the skills and capabilities acquired by prisoners inside the gates will enable them to make a meaningful, additive contribution to society.
At City & Guilds we remain committed to forging connections that support prisoners through the gates and into enduring jobs. We are delighted to see that so many business leaders are equally engaged and leveraging their expertise to both tackle the re-offending crisis and help former offenders reach their full potential.
The more business and education leaders that share that vision, work in genuine collaboration, and leverage their expertise in helping prisoners reach their full potential, will surely only help us improve the prospects for offenders on release and make a transformative difference to communities across the UK.