Seeing is Believing Visit: Reducing Re-offending through Business action

While the nation was getting ready for the snap election on Thursday 8 June, business leaders headed off to HMP Thorn Cross in Warrington on a Seeing is Believing visit to look at how they can reduce re-offending. The day was led by James Timpson, Chief Executive, Timpson.

“As leaders, we have a real opportunity to keep learning and keep challenging ourselves," said James Timpson, Chief Executive, Timpson Ltd. See what James Timpson has to say about the business benefits of employing ex-offenders.

In the UK alone more than 85,000 people are in prison and 10.5 million people in the UK have a criminal record. Re-offending is a critical issue for our society, estimated to cost the UK £13 billion per year, with 67 per cent of short term prisoners re-offending within a year of release, but we know that employment reduces the likelihood of re-offending by up to 50 per cent. Providing access to employment opportunities helps to reduce the cycle of re-offending by giving people an alternative to the revolving door of prison. 

The recruitment gap

After breakfast, James gave an overview of the recruitment gap and urged businesses to look at ways to future proof their business by taking action on this very important matter.

HMP Thorn Cross Governor, Mick Povall welcomed everyone to the prison and spoke about the on-going barriers to employment for ex-offenders, and the links between unemployment and re-offending.The all-male category D prison currently runs very successful reducing re-offending projects in conjunction with local businesses; such as Timpson and Recycling Lives. “We have a 99.6 per cent success rate for prisoners on Release on Temporary License (ROTL) who enter employment schemes through Thorn Cross," said Mick Povall, Governor, HMP Thorn Cross.

Next, the group heard from Alasdair Jackson, CSR and Sustainability Director, Recycling Lives who spoke about how their organisation has done a complete 360, from not having an interest in this agenda, to having programmes and workshops within local prisons aimed at reducing re-offending, and the challenges and benefits of doing so. They soon came to realise that there was untapped talent that businesses were missing out on. Six to seven ex-offenders re-offend within the first 12 months of release, but Recycling Lives can proudly say that less than one in 10 re-offend on their programme. Watch their video to find out more.

Delegates broke into groups to hear directly from ex-offenders who have faced multiple barriers due to their criminal backgrounds and how important a second chance is to them. They also heard from those who had finished serving their prison sentence and have benefitted from programmes highlighted. These programmes helped them reach successful, sustainable employment and learn skills and experience that has enabled them to integrate easily back into society. A prisoner at Thorn Cross, currently on the Recycling Lives programme reflected on the opportunity “there is a lot to gain, but a lot more to lose”.

The group then went on a tour of the prison grounds, visiting the Timpson and Recycling Lives workshops; showcasing prisoners at work, together with the skills and training they experience day to day through these programmes.

The business case

The final part of the day took the delegates to The Clink Restaurant at HMP Styal. After a welcome and overview of the Clink Restaurant and the inspiring concept behind it, delegates heard from James Deacon, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Ricoh UK Ltd on how and why their business has taken action on this agenda, and importantly the business benefits of doing so. Read how Ricoh supports offenders work

The delegates heard from Nicola Inge, Campaign Manager, Employment for Excluded Groups at Business in the Community on the support available to help UK employers create a fair opportunity for ex-offenders to compete for jobs. Surprisingly, one in five people in the UK have a criminal conviction.  See what your business can do to support ex-offenders here.

At the end of the visit, it was clear that businesses need to create new talent pipelines for their organisation to thrive. Helping people overcome disadvantages, such as past convictions, by increasing access to good and sustainable employment is one way of doing this. There was a general consensus among the group that business can tackle the recruitment gap that faces them and at the same time, give a helping hand to people who need it the most.

Find out more about The Prince’s Seeing is Believing, BITC’s programme giving senior business leaders first-hand insight into key social and environmental issues.

Visit participants

Visit Leader

James Timpson, Chief Executive, Timpson Ltd

Business delegates

Alasdair Jackson, CSR and Sustainability Director, Recycling Lives

Anthony Duerden, Group Chief Executive, Calico Housing

Claire Hall, Senior Vice President of People, McDonald’s Restaurants

Ed Cowell, Chief Executive Officer, Fraikin Ltd

Gary Shuttleworth, Director of Corporate Affairs, NuGeneration Limited

James Deacon, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Ricoh UK Ltd

Jonathan James, ‎Company Director, James Retail

Karen Morris, Executive Director – HR, North Midland Construction PLC

Kazik Sznerch, Head of HR, Hadley Industries plc

Michael Fiddaman, Head of Talent, NuGeneration Limited

Nicola Waring, Director of People, JW Lees & Co. Brewery

Rowland Cooper, Group HR Director, European Metal Recycling

Sara Saleh, HR Director, Ashtead Plant Hire Company

Tim Smith, Chief Operating Officer, GFG Foundation 

Wes Fortune, Business Manager, Pertemps Ltd


Read more news and blogs about the Seeing is Believing programme