ERSA has today published statistics which show that over 801,000 people have now started a job with help from the Work Programme since its inception in June 2011 to the end of 2016. This figure includes nearly 20,000 ex-offenders who have been supported into a job by employment support providers.
The ERSA statistics complement official government statistics, released on 22 September, which show the number of people who have achieved sustained work with support from the programme, called a job outcome. Today’s report includes statistics on ex-offenders for the first time. Ex offenders are eligible for support from day one of their benefits claim under the Work Programme, which has helped a total of 19,477 prison leavers into work since June 2011. Providing timely support to prison leavers is crucial to reducing reoffending and its associated costs, with employment being a critical element of the rehabilitation journey.
Under the Work Programme, support for ex-offenders includes dedicated, tailored support to help them overcome their obstacles to entering the jobs market. However, after the Work Programme ends in April 2017, there is no planned early intervention to support the rehabilitation of prisoner leavers – in fact, under current plans, an ex-offender without a disability or health condition may have to wait two years to receive specialist employment support.
Kirsty McHugh, ERSA Chief Executive, said:
“The latest ERSA statistics show that the Work Programme has helped a phenomenal 801,000 jobseekers overall to move into work, which is helping to transform people’s lives, local businesses and our communities.
“Today’s figures also underline the importance of timely employment support for prison leavers, with nearly 20,000 people gaining employment as a result. It is deeply concerning that this early support is due to end in 2017 and it is crucial that there is appropriate replacement provision. ERSA will continue to work with both the Ministry of Justice and Department for Work and Pensions to help ensure that prison leavers have the necessary support to overcome their obstacles and reintegrate into society, breaking the cycle of reoffending.”
Case Study: ERSA Significant Achievement Award Winner 2014
It is eight times harder for someone with a criminal record to find a job, so Rory's achievement - setting up as a self employed barber within four months of his release from prison - is all the more remarkable.
Rory, 29, had a difficult start in life. His single mum struggled to raise him and his siblings on an estate until she died of cancer when he was just eight. He lived with an older brother and ended up hanging round with a street gang who got him into smoking cannabis and then heroin.
Homeless at 15, he started dealing to get by and feed his own habit. Released from a first prison spell, with no home, no job and no support, he fell back into dealing and was convicted again within months, this time sentenced to seven years.
He served half that and spent his time in jail productively, getting clean of drugs, focusing on training and preparing himself mentally for a different kind of life on the outside. After studying barbering, he worked in prison salons and, in the months before his release, as an orderly in the OLASS training and education department. Staff there encouraged him to join the Work Programme and liaised with a Reading employment support provider so they were ready for him when he left prison.
Once out, his Work Programme advisors helped him get ID so he could set up a bank account, sorted him out with food parcels while he waited for his benefits, helped him set up an email account and worked on his confidence.
He took the initiative to go into barber shops and ask for work, offering to show them his work and start by cleaning floors if necessary. Although disheartened by many knockbacks, he eventually found a salon owner who was willing to give him a chance.
After proving his talent, he is now working four days a week and feels his life is going in the right direction for the first time. He spends every spare moment with his 10 year old daughter, trying to make up for all that lost time.
Rory said "I want to help other people get their lives back like I have. It's no fun being on drugs and selling them. Now I am working, I will never have to look over my shoulder waiting for the police - or something worse - to catch up with me.
"I want to help other people coming out of prisons. If everyone had the same support I did, there would be a lot less crime but you have to want to change. It's hard work, harder than I ever imagined. But if I can do it, anyone can."