by Alison Goddard, Chief Executive Lincolnshire Action Trust.
Last week I was pleased to hear that Virgin boss Richard Branson had announced the successful employment of 25 ex-offenders within the transport section of his company.
Following the announcement, I’m hoping we will see a significant shift in opinion of both employers and the general public, especially given that one in four working age adults has a criminal record.
I am all too aware, as Chief Executive of a charity dedicated to the care, resettlement and rehabilitation of offenders, of the challenges and setbacks ex-offenders face when leaving prison and re-entering society.
Lincolnshire Action Trust (LAT) was founded on the simple premise that people with a criminal record need a range of support to enable them to reintegrate into society.
The Social Exclusion Report (2002) found that having a meaningful job reduces re-offending rates by between a third and a half. It’s for this reason that the trust provides development and training opportunities to offenders at HMP Lincoln and other prisons as part of a package of support.
Research shows that along with a greater sense of self-worth, steady employment results in more law-abiding citizens who are positively contributing via their taxes and their spending, while reducing the numbers entering the revolving door of prisons.
I’ve often found ex-offenders are some of the hardest working and loyal members of staff. Retention rates are high, and people with a criminal record can make very reliable staff members.
Employment provides the employee with a sense belonging and a status in their community, as well as an income. It can also help individuals provide for their family and become a positive role model for their children – which is a great motivator.
However, in my experience, many employers are reluctant to consider an application from someone with a criminal record, often because of a lack of knowledge about how to deal with this issue – but help is at hand.
LAT is able to help employers to understand criminal record information, including any impact to business insurance, assess the risk and relevance of a conviction for a particular job role and advise on how to manage information within the wider workforce.
We’ve recently worked with business leaders to overcome misconceptions about employing people with a criminal record. We’ve invited employers into local prisons to talk with groups of prisoners about job opportunities in particular sectors such as construction and fitness, which has resulted in a number of jobs being offered.
We have also invited former prisoners who have gained employment to return to inspire current prisoners about the realities of finding a job, the value of employment in helping with rehabilitation and the support that is available.
I encourage employers of all sizes and sectors to consider how people with a criminal record can meet skills gaps, contribute positively to the workforce and become loyal and trusted employees.
I hope that last week’s high-profile endorsement will encourage more firms to open the door to ex-offenders and consider employing people with a criminal record. The positive long-term impact on businesses, the local community and society as a whole has the potential to benefit us all.