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The importance of employment in the rehabilitation of offenders

Barbara McDonough, Chief Operating Officer for Novus, talks about the importance of employment in the rehabilitation of offenders. 

I’ve worked in prisons, in different roles, for most of my career.

In that time, I’ve met and worked with thousands of offenders. The best possible outcome for those of us who have worked in prison learning is never seeing those offenders again (and I mean that in the nicest possible way!).

Reducing reoffending is what we’re all working towards; we don’t want to see offenders return to prison having committed further offences. Our aim is to work with them in such a way that they learn not only from their mistakes, but learn and develop the skills they need to succeed on their release.

It sounds easy, but it’s not. It’s not easy for offenders, and it certainly isn’t something which organisations like Novus can achieve alone. Reducing reoffending is a complex issue and one which requires many people working together to address, both from within the criminal justice system and beyond.

This week we are delighted to welcome a number of employers to an event at Wembley Stadium, from amongst the 1 million+ business in our capital city. Not only are successful businesses hugely important to the UK economy, they play a critical role in helping to create a safer society.

Research tells us that having a stable job is a critical part of an offender’s journey back into society. Employment provides an offender with independence, status, earning power, a structured routine, social contact and a sense of purpose and direction. It has a direct effect on reducing reoffending, cutting the number of crimes committed in our communities.

Helping ex-offenders into employment has a significant and lasting impact on both the level of crime and the cost to society, a cost estimated at around £60 billion in England and Wales. Around 18% of that is due to re-offending by recent prisoners. This puts the bill for the UK at around £13 billion per year, with each reoffending former prisoner potentially costing the criminal justice system an average of £65,000.

Each year, in England and Wales, approximately 66,000 ex-offenders will return to society after their sentence. At least three-quarters of them will be unemployed and almost two-thirds will reoffend within two years. Imagine being able to make a positive impact on those figures.

We know that most employers want to do the right thing – for their business, their customers and for their employees. They also have the chance to do the right thing for society and for their own community; they can open their doors to an ex-offender.

We’ve been working with the London Employer Engagement Partnership Group to help make this happen. If we can better understand employer’s needs, we can work inside prisons to help offenders gain the skills they need before they’re released.

With the average cost of recruiting and training a new employee estimated at £5,000, we can help to create a recruitment pipeline that benefits everyone – employers, offenders and the community.

We can even train offenders in the specific skills needed by an employer, and this is already happening in industries from catering and hospitality to construction.

The prospect of being able to move into employment on release is incredibly motivating for an offender and begins to create a sense of loyalty towards an employer. Giving someone a second chance at this point in their life will be paid back ten-fold in hard work, reliability and commitment. This process also brings diversity into the workplace and enables other employees to see their company live its own values. It can be an incredibly positive experience for all involved.

Employers may believe that ex-offenders lack soft skills, such as honesty or reliability, but these perceptions are challenged by employers’ actual experience. Don’t take my word for it; ask other employers.

  • 86% of employers record positive experiences with ex-offenders
  • 86% say offenders settle into work well with colleagues
  • 82% say offenders perform well

If you’re an employer, you’re welcome to join us at our event. And you can find out more about working with ex-offenders by contacting us at NovusWorks@novus.ac.uk.

Get in touch and find out how working an ex-offender can help you succeed and play your part in a safer society.

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