Prison leavers deserve a real chance to get into work
14 February 2022 08:56 AM

Prison leavers deserve a real chance to get into work

14 February 2022

The current labour shortages across the UK have made headlines and left businesses crying out for staff. From joining bonuses to bids to engage untapped ‘talent pools’, the crisis has forced the hand of employers who are now viewing inclusive hiring in a new light.

One such source of labour is people leaving prison. As things stand, only one in seven people find a job within six months of leaving prison – a number that has stubbornly refused to move, despite promises made by many consecutive Justice Secretaries. In this context, Dominic Raab’s pledge to increase that proportion to one in two is welcome. But what can be done to ensure that this ambition doesn’t remain just that: an aspiration?

Helping people leaving prison into work would not only help employers fill vacancies. It could transform lives, bring down reoffending rates and unlock human potential that too often goes to waste. Our experience as charities working with both men and women released from prison shows that many people leave wanting to do the right thing, but are held back by a long list of hurdles. Finding a place to stay is often the first problem, with 26% of prison leavers nationally released homeless or to unknown circumstances, and over half without a stable address. A recent Independent Monitoring Board report from HMP Bronzefield in Surrey, Europe’s largest women’s prison, showed a shocking 77% of women released without secure accommodation.

The challenges don’t end there. Those at the end of a prison sentence are currently handed a £76 subsistence payment (raised from £46 last year, for the first time in 25 years) and sent on their way. Switchback’s data shows 46% of young men in London released without a bank account, one in four without an ID and one in five without a phone. Even with the best employability support, it is hard to expect someone to find and keep a job without these basic essentials in place.

The Prisons Strategy White Paper, published by the Ministry of Justice in December, makes some steps towards acknowledging and addressing those problems. One of the measures floated by the government is providing every person leaving prison with a “Resettlement Passport,” intended to “ensure a smooth transition into the community.” The document is meant to include, among other things, a CV, an ID, an address and details of their local GP.

Next article

Related articles