Blog, Case study | 13 September 2023

A shared interest: restarting lives through employment at Social Interest Group

“It just goes to show that people who have been marginalised or feel like they don’t have any worth have so much to contribute if you give them the opportunity.” Norman Alcide, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Programme Manager, Social Interest Group

Social Interest Group is a charity that provides health, justice and social care services. They specialise in rehabilitating people with complex and overlapping needs, including people with convictions across London, Brighton, Kent, and Luton.

“The whole nature of our business is solving problems, so we don’t shy away from hiring people with convictions. It’s more a case of understanding and managing any problems.”

Norman Alcide
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Programme Manager at Social Interest Group

Norman Alcide is the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Programme Manager at Social Interest Group. He has been passionate about supporting women with convictions in to work since he first heard about Working Chance in HMP Holloway almost ten years ago.

“After speaking with the women in prison about their experiences, I realised what they had to endure. Some women were convicted for ridiculous things compared to men. The lengths of the sentences they were getting were incomparable. I realised that prison was a completely different experience for women.”

Once Norman joined Social Interest Group, he made it his mission to kickstart a partnership with Working Chance. “Working Chance is unique. Other organisations can help you find staff members, but they don’t do what Working Chance does.”

Norman highlights that staff who have been through the justice system often have some lived experience of the problems the residents at Social Interest Group face.

“If you’ve been through the justice system and then go on to work in this area, you get a good sense of criminal justice theory and what happens in reality. That experience gives you a unique oversight that formal studying doesn’t always capture.”

In Norman’s experience, people with convictions usually thrive at finding different ways to relate and engage with residents. Lived experience alone doesn’t necessarily mean someone is qualified for the job, but it’s an invaluable asset that can be nurtured and developed alongside other workplace skills.

Hiring people with convictions benefits the organisation but also provides both men and women a fair chance to find meaningful work and reshape their lives.

“People with lived experience want to be seen as a positive member of their community, and it’s about tapping into that and nurturing it.”

“I’ve worked with numerous people with lived experience of the criminal justice system over the years and found them invaluable colleagues.”

Norman Alcide
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Programme Manager at Social Interest Group

Norman also feels strongly that employment helps people to see themselves in a different light, too.

“Many people feel like they can find the self-worth they were seeking when they were committing crimes by developing their career in an organisation that doesn’t hold prejudice against them for their past. Identity is a key part of our theory of change, and being able to reframe how someone views themselves positively.”

For Norman, it’s all about preparation, mitigating potential risks, and, more importantly, giving people a fair opportunity.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s challenge preconceptions and recognise the value that people with convictions bring to the workplace.

“Through our own biases, we create barriers for people. We create all these prejudices that have no real substance. There’s no point in claiming to want to rehabilitate people if we’re not open to hiring them.”

Norman Alcide
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Programme Manager at Social Interest Group