Last week I nipped over to my local prison, HMP Askham Grange to meet a number of people looking to improve the employment chances for women leaving the prison.
Susan Field, Head of Reducing Reoffending at HMP Askham Grange and HMP New Hall hosted the meeting, which included Christine Watson-Adams from Clinks member Together Women, and Scott Bowen from Census Data Group.
Christine runs the InsideOut project, which aims to provide vocational skills to the residents of HMP Askham Grange, helping them to set up their own businesses or gain employment on release.
Together Women’s project is seeing good success rates, with Christine looking locally for female business leaders to come into HMP Askham Grange to provide inspiration and motivation for the residents, linking to local banks to provide financial and practical advice for residents setting up their own enterprises. Working from just outside the prison gates, Christine’s office was buzzing with residents sat at laptops busily working away.
I have offered to support Christine to make local links with employers, charities and funders in the Yorkshire and Humberside area, and have already introduced her to the UK Ambassador for the worldwide League of Extraordinary Women, who will hopefully be going into Askham to mentor and inspire residents.
Creating jobs and skills
Census Data Group are successfully setting up call centres across prisons in the UK; they currently deliver in ten prisons, with a further 17 committed to installing the scheme in their establishments.
I was fortunate to observe Susan and Scott, along with Michelle (HoLSE at Askham) talking about some of the technicalities of how to introduce the call centre package into Askham Grange. Despite some of it being over my head, I was able to provide information on some of the funding and contracting streams available to support the scheme, and also to see how, and if, some of our members could link into this and attract funding or business of their own. I was particularly struck by Susan and Michelle’s can-do attitude; constantly looking for openings and opportunities to innovate and facilitate and get the best for their residents. Given the amount of bureaucracy that often surrounds prison working, this was refreshing and encouraging.
Census, despite being a private company, is socially-minded, and appear committed to ensuring prisoners in England leave prison with the necessary experience, confidence and credentials to work in the growing UK call centre industry, which currently employs around 1.8 million staff, but is expected to grow significantly. Using ‘voice over internet’ technology and monitoring facilities, they are able to set up ‘call centres’ in prisons, and it they say it is causing excitement amongst governors and NOMS centrally. Census Life, the social enterprise arm of Census Data Group, will offer permanent employment to all graduates of the Census Data Group prison scheme and works with national and local firms to share the benefits of employing a Census ‘graduate’ upon release.
What do you think?
- Do you know of any similar offender employability schemes?
- Do you know of any organisations or individuals in Yorkshire and Humber who might be able to offer advice to the residents of Askham Grange?
- Do you think your local prison could explore the call centre idea?
You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll pass on your details.