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Charity urges bosses to take on ex-offenders and former addicts

A charity which works to break the cycles of crime and addiction has launched a new campaign to help tackle stigma towards ex-offenders and people in recovery from addiction.

More Than My Past aims to raise awareness of the potential for ex-offenders and former addicts to turn their lives around, including through employment.

Barriers and stigmas exist that prevent people with difficult pasts from reaching their full potential, particularly in relation to finding work. More Than My Past aims to challenge this and demonstrate to employers that such individuals are a worthy investment, if given the opportunity to prove themselves.

According to The Forward Trust, the charity behind the campaign, ex-offenders and people in recovery are the two groups that organisations are least likely to employ. Research conducted by the charity in 2017 found that one in four people in recovery have been turned down for jobs three times or more by disclosing their past.

Three quarters of prisoners have no job on release even though employment is the single biggest factor in reducing re-offending; 15 per cent of prisoners have never worked legally and almost half of prisoners (47 per cent) have no qualifications. Those in recovery from addiction who are employed are 22 per cent more likely to be abstinent than those who are not. Having a job more than doubles the length of abstinence.

With Brexit looming on the horizon, The Forward Trust is urging employers to consider expanding their recruitment pools to include ex-offenders in order to meet their requirements.  According to the CIPD, 70 per cent of employers with vacancies said that at least some of those were proving hard-to-fill in Autumn 2018, compared to 51 per cent in Spring 2017.

Employers already backing the campaign include food retailer Cook, retail service provider Timpson and transport social enterprise HCT Group.

James Timpson, Chief Executive at Timpson said:

Timpson is a family run business whose colleagues are the heart and soul of our company. We really are an equal opportunities employer, which includes sourcing great colleagues who may be ex-offenders or from other marginalised groups.

We don’t discriminate based on people’s background and instead recruit exclusively on personality. We firmly believe that people’s past should not hold them back and recognise that some of our best employees have had to challenge stigmas and prejudice to get to where they are today.

Dai Powell, Chief Executive of social enterprise HCT Group added:

HCT Group believes that someone’s history shouldn’t define them. We’re proud to support the ‘More Than My Past’ campaign as we believe in the potential of people whose past may not have been perfect. So many individuals still face too many barriers to employment due to a criminal past. But if they are given a chance they can – and do – turn their lives around to become valuable members of society.

Mike Trace, CEO of The Forward Trust, said:

Forward has been supporting people with criminal backgrounds or drug and alcohol problems to turn their lives around for over 25 years. We know that, if we show a belief in their ability to make a positive change, and give them the opportunity to prove themselves, they can do amazing things. We back up this belief, as Forward lives its mission by aiming to have a high proportion of all our staff, apprentices and volunteers having ‘lived experience’ – either a history of drug/alcohol problems, or of offending.

Currently, a third of The Forward Trust’s 400 salaried staff and 80 per cent of 150 volunteers, report that they are either ex-offenders or people in recovery from drug/alcohol dependence.

Trace concluded:

We want the general public and employers to share our belief in this untapped potential and do something to support people to be more than their past.

Photo: Julie Muir, former heroin addict and young offender, now Head of Recovery and Resettlement at Forward Trust