Green Start: A transformative programme continuing to empower ex-offenders from Groundwork

by Jun 21, 2024Case studies, Charity partners, Lived Experience, News, Prisoners and ex-offenders

Last year, we reported on the inspiring work being carried out by Groundwork, a UK-wide alliance of charities that brings communities together to tackle poverty and environmental challenges. Committed to creating opportunities for all, they launched their Green Start programme in 2021 in partnership with the City & Guilds Foundation to equip prison leavers with construction, carbon literacy and green skills.

The programme has exceeded expectations, with positive prisoner outcomes, a successful pilot at a women’s prison, a glowing Ofsted rating and demand from other prisons. Following the success of the initiative, Groundwork Greater Manchester (GM) has gone on to secure DfE Skills Bootcamp funding to continue to expand the training offer and is now in its second year of delivery through this GMCA commissioned route. We checked in with the team to find out more.

Initially launched as a 10-week course at HMP Forest Bank, the programme has become even more comprehensive. Now a 12-week programme with a NOCN Level 2 in multi trades (covering tiling, joinery, plumbing, painting, decorating and plastering), it provides a complete pathway to successful employment. In addition to training, participants receive job placements, post-release job brokerage and in-work support. Groundwork GM also engages with prison leavers’ families, extending its support network to enhance integration.

Green Start from Groundwork

The programme promotes positive attitudes towards education and employment, improves overall well-being and raises awareness of environmental issues. Many learners, previously unaware of issues of sustainability and their environmental impact, have undergone a shift in perspective, pledging to adopt more environmentally conscious habits.

The number of prisoners who have completed the programme at HMP Forest Bank has nearly doubled from 38 to 74, with 12 more learners starting their journey last month. 100% of programme participants have achieved their City & Guilds Level 1 Health & Safety in Construction and 58% have also gained their Carbon Literacy Certificates. The programme also boasts an impressive 70% employment rate!

Venetia Knight, Director of Employment and Enterprise at Groundwork, credits the ongoing success of the programme to the initial investment made from the Foundation’s Big Idea Fund:

“Due to the City & Guilds Foundation commissioning Groundwork to pilot new ways of delivering prison education and employment activity through their Big Idea Fund, we have been able to demonstrate effectiveness of this approach of delivering education, with support of construction sector employers, to progress people into work in the construction sector on release. This has enabled us to then secure mainstream funding from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority through their Skills Bootcamp programme funded through the DfE National Skills Fund, so we have been able to sustain the work beyond the initial investment.”

Green Start has also had a transformative impact on its learners. From pre-enrolment to completion, participants experience significant and consistent gains across various aspects of their lives. These include increased self-esteem, motivation, communication, teamwork skills and confidence. One participant explained:

“My confidence gets greater every day because of the Green Start course. I think it’s a good positive course for anybody who wants to achieve something great in the future.”

Green Start’s success story extends beyond HMP Forest Bank. A pilot programme at HMP Styal, a women’s prison, has empowered five participants to complete the programme. The curriculum mirrors the original, equipping participants with valuable construction skills in building, joinery, tiling, and bricklaying, as well as health and safety and carbon literacy. Notably, Wilmott Dixon, We are Footprint, and Gallaway Construction have joined the programme, offering valuable employer support, practical experience and workplace connections.

But Green Start’s triumphs don’t end there. The programme provides successful mentoring opportunities, resulting in significant confidence and leadership development in participants. The programme also recently secured a Good Ofsted rating.

So, what’s next? Groundwork GM are keen to roll out the training more widely in the North West and have been approached by other prisons seeking to replicate the programme. HMP Manchester has also expressed interest in supporting Green Start and the HMP Styal programme will see renewed focus once a second construction tutor has been appointed. What is clear is that the Green Start programme is continuing to make a real difference in bridging the gap between ex-offenders’ potential and the needs of the workforce.

Find out more about the City & Guilds Foundation’s work in prisons and how we support rehabilitation through our Big Idea Fund and other initiatives.

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