Employing young offenders makes good business sense, according to a report by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and Business in the Community.
In the report, Getting Out to Work, a range of benefits are explained to companies employing young adults with convictions. These include not only reducing the chance of young adults re-offending by between a third and a half, but the possibilities of creating financial savings and filling recruitment gaps for the employer, while saving taxpayers' money.
According to the report, 7.3 million people in the UK have a conviction with almost 60 per cent of them experiencing serious difficulties finding employment. At the same time there is a very strong relation between the percentage of young adults with convictions who have trouble finding employment and the proportion who re-offend within two years of release.
Sukhvinder Stubbs, Chief Executive of Barrow Cadbury Trust and former board member of Advantage West Midlands and the Black Country Development Corporation, said: "Getting Out To Work provides compelling first-hand evidence that employing people with convictions makes shrewd business sense for companies across a whole range of sectors.
"This is a real opportunity to help organisations plug expanding skills gaps with disciplined and motivated workers, who in turn will benefit from the structure and sense of purpose that makes them so much less likely to re-offend, potentially saving us all billions of pounds of imprisonment costs. The more employers take on the lessons from this guide the more everyone will benefit."
The report says that 87 per cent of employers with experience of employing people with convictions consider them as productive as other workers.
The report quotes success stories from individuals whose lives have been transformed, and explains how big organisations such as Asda and Midlands-based caterer Compass Group have adopted policies to employ ex-offenders, drastically cutting recruitment costs.
Compass Group has worked with inmates of all-female prison Drake Hall, in Staffordshire, since 2004. Its rehabilitation catering training project entailed zero recruitment costs and has helped 38 women to secure catering jobs at the Ministry of Defence's Swynnerton defence training camp - the first time the MoD has been confident enough to employ ex-offenders.
The findings also include claims that businesses can save up to 40 per cent on recruitment by opting for the relatively cheap and sustainable recruitment route offered by employing young adults with convictions. Prison records and documentation of recent histories also often gives prospective employers an ability to judge the suitability of candidates who are young adults with convictions far better than candidates short-listed 'off the street', giving employers sound peace of mind and the grounding for good future working relationships.
Once employed, young adults with convictions are also usually well-motivated and disciplined, often working harder and more reliably than other employees. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development has stated that, of the companies it surveyed, over 85 per cent remarked that young adults with convictions got on well with fellow workers and that over 80 per cent of young adults with convictions performed well after employment.
Employing those with convictions also reduces the cost to the taxpayer. It currently costs £65,000 for the criminal justice system to bring a re-offending ex-prisoner to the point of re-imprisonment. Once inside it costs the state a further £37,000 a year to keep an adult in prison. The price for keeping a juvenile in detention is even higher at £47,000 annually, approximately £20,000 more than it would cost to send a child to Eton for the same length of time. This expenditure costs the Treasury approximately £60 billion per year, a figure that could be dramatically reduced by offering offenders a productive path away from crime.
Getting Out To Work also says that a stable job reduces re-offending by between a third and a half according to The Social Exclusion Unit Report of 2002. Employment raises self-esteem, provides a solid income and a financial alternative to crime as well as strengthening families. Keeping young adults with convictions in work and off the street also creates a platform for progression away from re-offending.
Re-introducing young adults with convictions to the workplace vastly improves their chances of being transformed from a financial burden to a financial boon. Employing young adults with convictions drives up productivity, filling employment gaps and turning previous financial burdens into net contributors to the state.
Founded in Birmingham in 1920, the Barrow Cadbury Trust provide grants which enable groups to act as catalysts of social change, and seeks to encourage a just, equal, peaceful and democratic society.
To read the full report go to www.bctrust.org.uk.
While the case for employing young adults with convictions is clear, the ways to achieve it are not always as simple. The advice in the guide for employers aims to help businesses take the lead in bringing people with a criminal record back to the workplace. Here are tips on how they can do this.
1. Build relationships: It is vital for you as employers to create and maintain good relationships with prison authorities and probation services. They provide help for young adults with convictions leaving prison, and give peace of mind for you. The partnerships can act as an effective guarantee of character for your potential employees, allowing you to concentrate on assessing their skills and abilities.
2. Outline your expectations and requirements: Make sure you clearly explain what you as a business need to get out of the programme. Be ready to establish 'red lines' from the outset. This may mean there are certain offences that would rule out employment; but creating parameters will help you and potential recruits to save time in the application process.
3. Persevere with the scheme: Young adults with convictions employment programmes are often hard to create. But there is huge appetite within the prison and probation services for forging partnerships with employers. To get the most from them, it takes time and effort on all sides to understand how to best utilise these new recruits.
4. Commit to invest time and money: The best way for you to succeed is to ensure new recruits are motivated and skilled. This may entail visiting prisoners and supporting training programmes inside prisons to make candidates job-ready. Making a commitment to offenders by helping them gain skills will boost their motivation and give them a stronger interest in succeeding within your company after their release from prison.
5. Foster links with voluntary organisations: The voluntary sector and the prison and probation services can help with pre-screening during a prisoner's sentence, leaving you the employer to carry out only the final interview. By working with these groups you can outline your requirements and streamline the recruitment process.
6. Focus on ability and skills: Remember that it is the abilities; skills and experience of the candidate that you as an employer are looking for. If a candidate has reached interview stage then they are probably job-ready and their past criminal record should not be an impediment.
7. Try to empathise with the candidate: There may have been mitigating circumstances or issues surrounding their original offence. Crimes committed, especially by young offenders, are not necessarily going to be repeated as adults. Remember you are giving these recruits a solid path away from crime.
8. Be open: Prepare the ground for your scheme by implementing a measured communications plan and keeping key stakeholders such as fellow staff members; clients and suppliers informed about your scheme.
9. Remember, it's business as usual: There is no need to label your scheme an 'offender programme' or a prisoner 're-orientation scheme'. Employing people with a criminal record is not altruistic - it is good business sense. It should be seen as a business strategy, not a campaign.
10. Develop case studies and champions: The best way to highlight the value and business value of your scheme is to pull out and highlight examples of best practice. Creating champions and good case studies will underline the benefits of the scheme to sceptics both within and outside your business.