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“Often a prisoner’s first day out of prison is like the first day of their sentence.” – Lisa Hubbard, Senior Support Officer at Working Chance.

In September, Working Chance gave oral evidence to the 
Work & Pensions Committee’s ongoing inquiry into support for ex-offenders in Westminster. It may have been one of the hottest days of the year, but our CEO Jocelyn Hillman OBE and Senior Support Officer Lisa Hubbard kept their cool and did a sterling job of putting forth the case for better support for women ex-offenders.

Lisa Hubbard (left) and Jocelyn Hillman (right) give evidence to the Committee.

They gave evidence alongside Clinks, Revolving Doors Agency and Unlock to members of the Work & Pensions Committee – whose role it is to scrutinise the work of the Department for Work & Pensions. The MPs listening to the evidence included Frank Field (Chair), Heidi Allen, Karen Buck, Steve McCabe and Craig Mackinlay. 

During the session, Jocelyn and Lisa passionately and eloquently outlined the current problems with support for ex-offenders – or lack thereof – and what could be done to improve the status quo, drawing on their years of experience working with women with criminal convictions.

“Whose responsibility is it when a prisoner is released with no bank account, no housing?” – Jocelyn Hillman, CEO of Working Chance.

Jocelyn put to the Committee that women often have more complex needs than men, as they frequently have more issues to deal with – one being that they may be mothers and often the primary caregiver for their children.

“Treating [women with convictions] as individuals and as human beings is important,” commented Jocelyn,“as is being aspirational in our approach to them […] Every woman has a different story, and it’s important to listen to the whole story. This is what we do and is why we have such a good success rate.”

Lisa raised an interesting point regarding Jobcentre Plus – that perhaps it would be useful for them to employ ex-offenders, i.e. people who know first-hand the often difficult journey of coming out of prison and finding work, who in turn can work effectively with people with convictions who’re seeking employment.

Jocelyn remarked: "The skills they are teaching, particularly in women’s prisons, are not particularly applicable to today’s world. They are not teaching them anything that you need in 21st century Britain. They are teaching them hairdressing. We don’t need hairdressers. We have too many hairdressers in this country. They are teaching them sewing. Life has moved on. What they are getting taught in prisons is not really relevant and it is not how you go about getting a job. 

We send a job alert out to our candidates every week. We get 20 women come back who say, “We would like to apply for that job,” and then we say, “You have to apply for it online”. Nobody applies because they don’t know how to apply for a job online, and yet this is how the world is today. Women in prison should be taught how to do Excel spreadsheets, coding and business administration, not sewing and hairdressing."

Jocelyn also commented on how employers are often “humbled” when they hire our women and are surprised at how “articulate and well-dressed” they are – showing just how entrenched the completely inaccurate preconceptions of women with convictions are.

One individual who’s clearly not subscribing to that status quo is an MP who’s recently hired one of our candidates as an researcher, which we’re delighted about.

If you’d like to read more about the Work & Pensions Committee’s ongoing inquiry into support for ex-offenders, you can do so here.

Find out how you can hire a candidate from us here.

Donate now and help more women with convictions and women care leavers to find work.