East Anglia: Reggae Reggae entrepreneur Levi Roots backs BITC Right Step initiative

REGGAE Reggae Sauce entrepreneur Levi Roots, who has turned his life around after serving time in prison, was among the speakers at a regional conference on breaking down barriers to employment.

More than 140 business leaders from across the East of England attended the Right Step Conference, organised by the Business in the Community (BITC) charity with support from the National Offender Management Service and the European Social Fund.

The half-day conference focused on helping employers to recruit and retain the most talented staff they can, examining the barriers that firms often put in the way of employing the best candidates – especially those who are ex-offenders.

After serving a jail term in Pentonville Prison, Levi Roots went on to secure investment in his Reggae Reggae Sauce business venture through the BBC TV Dragons’ Den programme.

Explaining his support for the conference, he said: “For me, prison was the thing that actually turned my life around.

“I’d spent years trying to find myself and got into lots of trouble. Whilst in Pentonville, it was the support of my family, prison officers and a lady from an external agency who spent time with me, that helped me make a fresh start when I left prison.”

Also among the speakers at the event were Damian Evans, governor of Highpoint Prison in west Suffolk, and a number of business leaders who are already playing an active role in breaking down barriers to employment by engaging with the prison and probation services to provide training, mentoring and work opportunities for ex-offenders and serving prisoners.

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Mr Evans said: “I have been encouraged for some time about the work of Business in the Community’s ‘Right Step’ project.

“We need organisations like this that are prepared to work with us and convince employers of the benefits of employing ex-offenders. Stable employment is proven to reduce the risk of re-offending and that must work to everyone’s benefit.”

Delegates at the conference received copies of a Code of Practice and an Employer Tool Kit offering guidance on working with ex-offenders.

BITC director Mike Brophy said: “Throughout the Right Step project we have always had our eye on the future

“By establishing local employer forums, delivering training and producing practical documents such as the Code of Practice and Employer Toolkit, we believe that businesses in the East of England are now well-equipped to continue the fantastic work they are already doing with the Right Step agenda.

“Breaking down these barriers to employment really can achieve a Win:Win situation: where we reduce crime within our communities and see businesses employ staff who can help them to flourish.”