Prisoner work scheme aims to reform offenders while filling skills gap
Suffolk pub operator Greene King has noted the value of hiring ex-offenders and prisoners on temporary release from jail.
The brewer and hospitality firm said working with prisons had secured a "pipeline of talent" and could help to plug a shortage of kitchen staff in the industry.
In January, Greene King's Stepping Up Report set out plans to encourage social mobility by employing 50 offenders by the end of 2019 and supporting 20,000 apprentices by 2022.
The Bury St Edmunds firm was among 230 additional employers, including Pret a Manger, to join the New Futures Network since the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) launched the scheme in October to fill local skills gaps by providing job opportunities for men and women on release from custody.
On Tuesday, the MoJ announced the scheme would be boosted by changes to allow prison governors greater autonomy to grant Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL).
Greg Sage, communications director for Greene King, which is working with prisons in the North West and London, said: "We've started working with ex-offenders and people coming towards the end of their sentence because it allows us to secure a pipeline of talent coming into our business, at the same time as helping people start again as they leave prison.
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"In the hospitality industry there is a nationwide shortage of kitchen staff - kitchen managers and chefs particularly - that we at Greene King are not immune to."
Last May, the Education and Employment Strategy set out measures to boost skills in custody and improve prisoners' employment chances on release.
Governors now have power to commission services from education providers, charities and businesses, via the Prison Education Dynamic Purchasing System.
Almost 88% of participating prisoners achieved a recognised award from educational bodies in the 2017/18 academic year.
A recent YouGov poll suggested three out of four people were comfortable buying from a business employing ex-offenders.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said broadening access to training and work was vital in steering offenders away from a life of crime and keeping the public safe.
"Many organisations are recognising the value of giving offenders a second chance, and we have carefully listened to their feedback before making these changes," he added.