Big Idea Fund: more funding available to unlock the potential of the UK Prison population, and reduce reoffending

by Jun 7, 2023Funding, Future Skills Commission for Prisons, News, Prisoners and ex-offenders

The City & Guilds Foundation is pleased to announce that we are inviting expressions of interest for the second round of The Big Idea Fund until 22 June 2023.

The Big Idea Fund was the first major initiative of the Foundation’s ambitious Future Skills Commission for Prisons. And since its launch in 2020, we have funded nine pioneering programmes, which are supporting individuals in prison to develop the skills they need to find employment upon release, helping to reduce the risk of reoffending.

We are inviting expressions of interest from charities, prison governors and other potential providers as part of £1m Big Idea Fund which is aimed at unlocking the potential of the UK prison population and to reduce reoffending. We know that over £500million¹ a year could go back into the economy by lowering offending rates alone if we unlock the skills potential of the UK prison population – a much-needed boost as we continue to build the economy post-Covid, and as many sectors seek to address significant skills shortages.

The Future Skills Commission for Prisons includes a wide range of experienced Commissioners across the sector, including Dame Sally Coates, Director of Secondary Academies at United Learning; London prisons Group Director, Ian Bickers; Head of Timpson Foundation and Director of Inclusion and Diversity for Timpson Group, Darren Burns, and former ex-offender and founder of SOS Gangs at St Giles, Junior Smart OBE.

Ian Bickers, Prison Group Director, London Prisons and a member of the Future Skills Commission for Prisons said: “I am delighted to be supporting this initiative again with the City & Guilds Foundation. I have seen first-hand in the prison estate the impact that exciting and innovative training can have – both for the individual and the employers they work with on release. We have been really impressed by the difference the projects are making from the first round of funding and look forward to seeing another round of innovative new ideas that have the potential to transform the way skills are delivered in prisons.”

Currently, around 3 in 10 of the 79,000 released from sentences every year go on to offend again at an estimated social and economic cost of £18bn². The Big Idea Fund uses City & Guilds’ convening power to bring together outstanding providers and innovative practice to transform how offenders are being supported into employment.

Faiza Khan MBE, City & Guilds’ Corporate Affairs and Foundation Director said: “The impact of the initial funded programmes has been inspiring, and we remain just as committed, if not more, to unlocking the potential of the prison population to help address the skills shortages faced in this country and to allow the individuals to go on and lead fulfilling lives. We’re really excited to see more innovative ideas coming through in this round of funding.”

For more information, or to submit an Expression of Interest, see the Big Idea Fund section of our Supporting Rehabilitation webpage.


  1. A City and Guilds skills qualification in prison is valued at £34,000 per year saving to taxpayer by the New Economic Unit database in re-offending and social costs. Assuming 75,000 prisoners are released each year if one fifth (15,000) do not reoffend, the value to the economy is £504m each year. Source: MOJ JDL, 2019 and New Economy Unit.
  2. MOJ Economic and Social Cost of Re-offending 2019

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