This guest blog by Adriana Paice of The Exceptionals looks at employment for people in the criminal justice system and introduces a new resource helping businesses employ ex-offenders by connecting them with relevant organisations who provide training, recruitment and ongoing support.
At the Exceptionals we believe, passionately, in the potential of people who have been through the criminal justice system (CJS) and want to make a change in their lives. We are all aware of the meaningful role that employment plays in reducing levels of reoffending; but there are simply not enough employers actively recruiting ex-offenders. We want to change this disjunct and inspire more businesses to see this community as an overlooked pool of talented people who make for exceptional employees – skilled, committed and driven.
There are many organisations – from large charities to small social enterprises – delivering excellent work in this sector, offering training and support for people reintegrating back into their communities. We know that there are employers who are willing to take the opportunity of hiring someone with a conviction, but they don’t necessarily know where to start. So, we have created an online portal, designed specifically for employers, to help them understand what is on offer and banish many of the misconceptions that seem to thrive around this area.
At the heart of this new portal - www.theexceptionals.org - is a directory. Prospective employers can search by region, sector and skill to find the right organisation that will help them find the best candidates for their roles. Connecting employers with crucial partners has long been the part where amazing rehabilitation work has been let down by the chasm between the criminal justice system and the commercial sector. If a company does not know to ask your organisation for help employing ex-offenders, they simply will not bother. The directory brings together industries and support organisations to allow employers to see the wealth of assistance available to them and their potential Exceptional applicants.
On our journey to build this resource we have encountered so many exceptional organisations and we continue to be inspired by the work in this area - its range, scope and impact. This includes recruitment agencies such as Working Chance, which successfully support women with convictions back into employment, as well as training schemes offered by the likes of Bounceback with their in-prison training programmes in various construction skills. Many employers have no idea of the wide scope of activities offered in prison and post-release. From care homes such as Willowdene Farm in Shropshire, providing rehabilitation as well as training, to innovative learning programmes like Learning Together which brings together prisoners and undergraduates to study alongside each other, we aim to share best practice and show employers the range of support available to them and their potential employees. The Directory also shares the numerous successes of mentoring programmes such as Switchback and Trailblazers as well as creative enrichment programmes like those offered by Only Connect and Beating Time, which provide an opportunity for prisoners to develop transferable skills in teamwork and communication whilst also building self-confidence. The Directory also includes numerous social enterprises such as Offploy, Hard Yard and Behind Bras, all established by ex-offenders to support and train people in prison and through the gate.
Your organisation is an amazing one. It strives to help the community by supporting those who need it. It should be accessible to employers and connected to the world your service users are trying to connect with, so that the hard work of your team can be transferred into society. Make your amazing organisation an Exceptional one and join our directory.
To join the Exceptionals Employers’ Directory, complete the application here
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We are extremely disappointed that the JCVI advice on phase 2 of the COVID vaccination programme does not prioritise people in prison and those who work with them, including voluntary sector staff and volunteers https://gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-phase-2-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-programme-advice-from-the-jcvi/jcvi-interim-statement-on-phase-2-of-the-covid-19-vaccination-programme