Supporting prison leavers to fulfil their potential

6 Aug 2021 01:22 PM

Guest blog: Al Murray, Managing Director for Justice and Central Government, Capita discusses their work with UK charities to offer ex-offenders employment opportunities to grow and develop their skills.

For many people, being released from prison can be a daunting prospect. According to UK charity Prison Reform Trust, a significant number of those entering the prison system suffer from mental health issues and learning disabilities, with up to 62% of offenders having a reading age of 11 or lower.

These challenges, along with a criminal record, make it harder for people to find fulfilling work after leaving prison. Opportunities for launching professional careers are even thinner on the ground, with ex-offenders often pushed towards lower paying roles where there’s less room for progression.

Despite the fact that many prisoners have skills which would be extremely valuable in the workplace, our systems and access barriers make it difficult for people to demonstrate these and reach their full potential.

Some of the challenges associated with the prison system were documented in the BBC drama, Time, which offered a realistic portrayal of the trauma and mental health crises that many prisoners experience. For me the show highlighted just how alienating prison life can be, and the hardships that so many people face. However, through partnerships between charities, government bodies and corporate companies, I believe we can carve a new path for ex-offenders, offering them the chance to develop stable careers and be positive contributors to their communities through work and education.

The government has recently outlined plans to support more prison leavers in their search for meaningful work which is something we wholeheartedly support. As a large employer we recognise that we can play a key role in helping to break down the barriers faced by prison leavers by providing employment opportunities which have the potential to be life-changing for that individual and their family. And with the impact of re-offending estimated to cost some £18 billion a year, there’s an important potential knock-on effect for communities and society as a whole too.

That’s why we’re working with charities such as Project Remake to offer ex-offenders opportunities where they can grow and develop their skills. We’re planning to support 24 prison leavers through a series of short-term work placements, which will help them on the road to long-term employment.

Alongside this, we’ll be donating our apprenticeship levy to support other businesses to employ prison leavers and working closely with public sector clients to remove the barriers that prevent ex-offenders being deployed on government contracts.

Welcoming the first participants to the Capita team

This month we’re welcoming the first three participants from the programme to our teams who have been matched with mentors from within Capita. They’ll be undertaking three-month placements to help them develop their areas of interest and gain a better understanding of how a corporate business operates, with the aim of building on the skills and confidence they need to succeed long-term in the business world.

One of the roles is to work with our growth team to help generate and deliver new sales, enhancing IT and communication skills, whilst providing exposure to sales and growth to feed into the participant’s entrepreneurial vision. Another role is with our socially responsible resourcing team to help develop important transferable skills in communication, organisation and teamwork. The third placement is for a systems analyst in our education services team to build a more cohesive system for collecting data, helping the participant to build strong research and analytical skills.

Each of these new team members brings with them strong people skills, as well as drive and ambition. We feel privileged that they’ve chosen to share their talents with us, and we expect them to be an important asset to the Capita team.

A particularly significant aspect of the programme is that each participant will be paid a living wage throughout the duration of the placement. Poverty is reported to be one of the primary reasons that people turn to reoffending, so it’s crucial that – in addition to building self-esteem and a sense of self-worth - we support people financially as they develop into their roles.

A positive experience for everyone

The programme also has a positive impact on the wider organisation, giving mentors the chance to share their experiences with others and learn from the people they’re supporting. From my own personal experience as a mentor on a previous Capita programme, I can attest to this – I was much moved by the enthusiasm and talent of my mentee and felt I gained something quite remarkable from the experience.

I know other Capita managers have benefitted too, saying that, by focusing on an individual’s talents and potential, they’ve gained a better understanding of how to make the most of the skills and aptitudes of other members of their team. Last - but certainly not least - by opening up opportunities to people with different life experiences, we’re adding an extra dimension to our teams, energising our people with different perspectives on how to reach their goals.

The founder of Project Remake, Judge Kameel Khan, describes the project as life-changing: “Feedback from our schemes has been excellent and demonstrates exactly why it’s so needed. Many people who enter the prison system have existing skills, but due to challenges like poverty and lack of access to education, they’ve not had the opportunity to develop these. Project Remake’s partnership with Capita aims to redress this balance, helping to give people the chances they deserve to succeed. Companies also benefit from seeing and hearing different perspectives, increasing the richness and diversity within their organisation.”

Providing better opportunities for people and feeling that we’re delivering real social value as an organisation is extremely rewarding. By being involved with programmes such as Project Remake, we’re proud to be able to help people of all ages to make a fresh start, equipping them with the valuable skills they need to take the next steps forward.