A well-attended Network meeting last night had discussions which were wide ranging, perceptive and engaging.
- David Lidington’s speech at the Conservative conference: several were unimpressed, some who had met or knew him suggested we give him time and one stated that as these speeches were balm to his audience, it was best not to make too much of them. The New Futures Network, mentioned by Lidington as a national task force, was perceived to be a good initiative. It aims to match people leaving custody with employers and I am looking to bring them within our Network. Several said we need more business people spreading the message of conversion to other businesses. This Network can both identify, and prime them with advice and support. Through your many contacts if you can nominate any potential business people please let me know.
- Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, gave a surprisingly optimistic opinion of the future of the prison service. He had just been to Holland and found that their politics and society are similar to ours but their use of prison is utterly different and much more sensible. So the hope is that with a new Minister of Justice and the Prison Reform Trust paving the way, our prison system can be improved though obviously it will take time.
Three main action points came out of the discussion about attracting employers to view ex-offenders as potential job material. Paddy Stanley CEO of Mitie Foundation said it was important to emphasise it is employers who have a problem finding staff – not ex-offenders trying to get jobs. Val Corbett suggested we should find a way of establishing a central organisation in which potential employers could seek staff which led to …
- Michael Corrigan, CEO of Prosper4 Group, telling us he has started a digital Jobs Board. By the end of the year the hope is to have 3-400 CVs and 100-or-so jobs on the site. As ever funding needs to be found but Michael will investigate EU funding streams and their criteria. He will send this to the group some of whom will have contacts to help. The EXceptionals in our Network could link with this as could others (please let me know). The group decided to use the Jobs Board (is there a better name?) and funnel jobs, employers and people to Michael when the site has been established.
To show what is already happening: there is a huge labour gap with regard to coding and programming skills. Networker Baillie Aaron, CEO of Sparkinside, is advising a start-up called Code4000 which teaches coding in prisons. Michael is working to get jobs for when the men emerge from the programme in about six months’ time. Already organisations have approached him wanting to offer jobs.
- Show don’t tell: we were told of a company desperate for staff whose Board would not allow him to consider employing anyone with a prison record. Paddy Stanley and Fran Findlater, CEO Bounceback said they were willing to allow any employer to view their courses so they could see the calibre of the potential employees. Heather Phillips CEO of Beating Time has had success with taking employers into HMPBirmingham with several men obtaining jobs.
- TV project: Flicker, a TV production company has a firm commission from Channel 4 to produce a 90 minute programme in 2019 showing what happens to 100 people after release. Several Networkers had been approached and the Network PR, Nick Dear (Robin Corbett’s son-in-law) has offered to liaise between the Network and the production company and will report back. Nick works with all the major broadcasters (and national newspapers) and has done publicity for many TV programmes including X Factor, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Britain’s Got Talent and Soccer Aid. His website is: ndear.co.uk