East Anglia: Business in the Community urges more firms to help ex-offenders

THE chief executive of Ipswich Building Society is among business leaders exploring ways to help ex-offenders find jobs in the region, as research reveals many firms would not consider interviewing someone with a criminal record.

Paul Winter, who is also the chair of the Suffolk Institute of Directors (IoD), visited Hollesley Bay prison last month with 20 IoD members to see how the justice system supports prisoners moving into society.

“The main reason for the visit was to enable the members of the IoD to see the work that is going on in Hollesley Bay to help ex-offenders, and to think and look at ways that they can find employment,” he said, adding that firms should actively consider how they can provide training and opportunities for ex-offenders. “Having gone on the visit, I’ve now been trying to help members think about how they can employ ex-offenders,” Paul added.

The visit came after a survey from business-led charity Business in the Community (BITC) found only 55% of decision makers would consider interviewing someone with a criminal record, even if they were well-qualified and experienced.

BITC regional director Mike Brophy said: “In a recession you need to look at every possible avenue so you can be competitive in your industry. You don’t want to be missing out on talented individuals.”

Employing ex-offenders doesn’t just help businesses become more competitive, but also supports the community, he added. He quotes figures from Government’s December 2010 Green Paper ‘Breaking the Cycle’ which states that almost half of adult offenders released from custody reoffend within a year. However, evidence shows that having a job reduces re-offending by 25-33%.

“Interestingly, whilst just under half (45%) of our respondents were quite candid in their reluctance to consider employing someone with a criminal record, 80% of them agreed that ex-offenders should be helped to get back into the workforce,” Mike said. “The question is, who provides that help?”

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In the East of England there are many initiatives taking place, making the region a trailblazer in Mike’s opinion.