Whilst government announcements last month to reform prisons and improve prisoner education are welcomed, much more needs to be done to encourage and support employers to recruit people with a criminal record.
Employers like Timpsons and Greggs have shown that people with convictions can make fantastic employees and that there is actually a business as well as a social benefit in opening up job vacancies to them. That’s why the Ban the Box campaign, led by Business in the Community, has been so important. Similarly, the Employer Forum for Reducing Reoffending (EFFRR) does excellent work, but as Dame Sally Coates noted in her review, it is still relatively small in scale. There’s also the national See Potential campaign led by the Department for Work and Pensions; they have focused in on people with a criminal record in encouraging employers to think differently about how they recruit.
People with convictions are not inherently ‘a risk’. There is a broad range of ‘ex-offenders’ and in our work with employers we emphasise the importance of recruiters not discounting applicants simply because of their criminal record. For those leaving prison, the cost of unemployment strongly translates into increased chances of reoffending.
Reforms to prisons must go hand-in-hand with more work done at a local, regional and national level to encourage and support employers. So-called ‘reform prisons’ will need to focus on the employment outcomes of those released, which is also important. Community Rehabilitation Companies will be an important part of this puzzle too, supporting people as they leave prison or serving their sentence in the community, yet there is little evidence of CRC’s supporting employers in an effective way.
The national work of Ban the Box, See Potential and EFFRR are important in changing attitudes. Regional employer networks, as recommended by the Coates Review, may well be an important connector between national initiatives and individual prisons supporting individuals to find employment on release.
Written by Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock
- You can find out more about our fair access to employment project