Ian Mulholland, managing director of Interserve citizen services, was in Hull recently to meet staff to discuss their work and provide an overview of recent developments within the CRCs.
He also met with Jacob Hill, managing director of Offploy, a company which specialises placing ex-offenders in the workplace and which is running a pilot with HLNY CRC in Hull.
The Ministry of Justice hopes that vocational training will improve on figures showing that only 17 per cent of offenders get a job once they rejoin the outside world. Jacob, a former service user with West Yorkshire CRC, Offploy is looking to address this issue.
One side of Offploy recruits personnel for the criminal justice sector, with the fees earned helping to fund the other arm of the business, which helps prisoners who have just been released and those with criminal convictions to find work. Two years after it was set up, Offploy has found work for over 100 people with convictions and has offers from employers of 250 roles to recruit for.
In 2015, Jacob was sentenced to 28 months in prison, of which he served nine and a half, spending a further four and a half months wearing a tag. He describes the experience as the best thing that ever happened to him as he was on a self-destructive path.
Going to prison and meeting people eager to find employment and turn their life around inspired Jacob to start Offploy.
He is a believer that quickly finding work after release from prison can hold the key to rehabilitation. The one-year reoffending rate for adults is about 30 per cent, according to official figures, while the figure is closer to 40 per cent for juveniles. Offploy wants to tackle that by helping ex-offenders to find employment.
Jacob believes that the system should do more to help ex-offenders to find work and that private sector should do more to give former offenders a chance.
Hull-based Offploy has placed candidates in jobs in warehouse, construction and food manufacturing roles, as well as in highly skilled engineering jobs. “Our philosophy is ABC; [progress from] any job to better job to career,” says Jacob.
As well as the conventional work of a recruitment agency, Offploy works to build the confidence of candidates through a nine-step journey. One of the steps helps participants to write a “disclosure letter” to potential employers outlining their offence and what they have done since.
Jacob says: “With employers, we discuss which offences they’ll hire and which they’ll consider on a case by case basis. We need to get the staff on board with the idea, too. I usually say, ‘Would you give me a chance?’ If they would, I am confident we can find them someone.”
Former inmates, like Derek Gates, 43, a peer mentor with HLNY CRC, are taking a lead to help prisoners learn a trade and get work. Derek helps service users prepare for the workplace and takes them on a two-day employability course to ensure they have the skills to present themselves to potential employees. Derek has already helped participants to find employment in Hull docks as Stevedores.
Ian Mulholland said: “We’ve been very impressed with Jacob and his team – many of whom are embedded in our offices in Hull. Many of them are former service users who are now delivering peer mentoring to ex-offenders and getting them fit for the workplace and a career away from crime.”