Unlocking Opportunities For Ex Offenders – Coventry Event

Posted on 11 June 2012

Social Enterprise Workshop – Coventry

Taking place in the Methodist Central Hall in Coventry, this workshop had practitioners from the criminal justice system along with those looking to develop their business ideas in a way that would involve working with ex-offenders.  There was strong representation from the Care Farming sector.

This mix was helpful for the discussions that took place during the morning.

The workshop was kick-started with a quick review of the reasons why this was a policy topic that is very current.  A report in 2010 from the Ministry of Justice – Reducing Re-offending through Social Enterprise – set the framework which stressed the importance of being employed for this group.  Importantly, ex-offenders who have a job are between 30% and 50% less likely to re-offend and research has shown how social enterprise is well positioned to assist ex-offenders on the path to employment because of its approach to both enterprise and creating social value.

Darryl Jones from HM Prison Hewell was an enthusiastic advocate for the range of activities that prisoners could be involved in to enhance their employability.  The problem, he argued, was the breakdown in the offender journey when it went from leaving prison and out into a work placement or job. We need to develop greater links between networks of social enterprises and the criminal justice system as this would really help overcome this problem.

Daryl also highlighted the statistics that really emphasise the link between lack of a job and prison. For instance:

  • Two-thirds of prisoners were unemployed in the four weeks before imprisonment.
  • Nearly three-quarters of prisoners were in receipt of benefits immediately before entering prison.
  • 5% of prisoners were sleeping rough prior and almost one-third were not living in permanent accommodation immediately prior to imprisonment.

So by intervening through offering jobs and support, a real impact can be made.

Michael Rogers at Fry Housing Trust illustrated how the ethos within his organisation can help address these problems. Fry Housing tackle the housing/homelessness issues of ex-offenders by providing additional (often 1-2-1) support to their clients, not just arranging accommodation.   This gives clients stability and that allows other organisations working with offenders to help reduce re-offending and re-integrate people back into mainstream society.  This has benefits for all of us as it is estimated that current levels of reoffending costs the UK £11bn per year or £65,000 for each person reoffending.

The workshop was a great opportunity to network but  also there was a clear interest in being able to look at case studies of social enterprises working with ex-offenders.  Here the reps from care farms were helpful and there will be opportunities to develop these links at the Unlocking Opportunities for Ex-offenders Conference on 15 June.

We are running a waiting list for this event, for more details please contact h.ryman@socialenterprisewm.org.uk

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