Ex-offender employment specialist Offploy has been enlisted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to help get 348 prison leavers ‘work ready’ and reduce reoffending rates – which cost taxpayers £18bn per year.
As part of the Government’s new ‘Prison Leaver Pilot’ project, the peer-to-peer mentoring programme aims to pair up those preparing to leave jail with mentors who have lived experience of the Criminal Justice System – in a bid to provide the necessary tools and training to get ready for work.
Appointed by the DWP to support the rollout of the scheme, Yorkshire-headquartered social enterprise Offploy will support 348 prisoners on their release from jails across Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, East Anglia, Birmingham, Solihull, North London, and Essex. 85 candidates will be enrolled on a six-week intensive course and a further 263 on a 16-week peer mentoring programme.
With 62% of Offploy’s own workforce having experienced the criminal justice system first-hand, the organisation will recruit an additional eight people with convictions as peer mentors to deliver the programme.
Minister for welfare delivery, Will Quince, said: “Offploy must be congratulated for doing everything they can to help give offenders the best possible chance upon release, allowing them to earn an honest living without returning to a life of crime.
“Helping prisoners find work is a crucial part of turning their lives around and cutting crime – and that’s good news for society as a whole.”
As part of the delivery – which runs from April 2021 to January 2022 – Offploy will deliver weekly 1:1 peer mentoring sessions which cover interview skills, CV writing, job applications, and how to deal with rejection.
By focusing on confidence and mindset development, Offploy aims to change thinking behaviours, enabling candidates to plan realistic goals designed to help them move closer to employment.
Working with local communities to address the stigmas often associated with prison-leavers, Offploy will build support networks, provide referrals to community agencies – such as housing and financial support – and offer practical help to secure a life away from crime.
"While prison can often teach basic skills and even trades, it's typically the case that people don't have access to a bank account, have never created a CV, or feel concerned about how to discuss their criminal record with a potential employer,” Jacob Hill, former prisoner and founder of Offploy, explained.
“But, where individuals are supported into work upon their release, they are 9% less likely to reoffend – thanks to the security of a regular income and personal security. However, the perceived challenges associated with a life away from crime can sometimes act as a significant barrier, and drive some back into the lifestyle and habits they were previously trapped in.
“That’s why, when it comes to trying to prepare prison leavers for life in 'the real world', no-one can empathise and advise better than those who have been in that exact same position. Mentors can instil hope into the individuals on our programme by sharing their challenges and how they have overcome them – and we’re humbled to be a part of this scheme.”
The ‘Prison Leavers Project’ is part of the government’s £220 million package to reduce crime and forms part of a cross-government project designed to work with service users and stakeholders to test innovative ways to improve social inclusion of people leaving prison and reduce reoffending.