Working Chance and Switchback respond to the Ministry of Justice’s Prisons Strategy White Paper launched 7 December.
Charities welcome the Ministry of Justice’s plans in the Prisons Strategy White Paper to get more prison leavers into work, but fear the proposals fall short of the change needed.
The government’s prison reform plans announced today include employment support in prison and a Resettlement Passport scheme aimed to help prison leavers get jobs.
Nearly 50,000 people are released from prison each year. Currently only 14% of prison leavers have a job six months after release. This particularly affects women, who are more than twice less likely than men to be in work six weeks after leaving prison.
Switchback, a charity supporting young men leaving prison, and Working Chance, the UK’s only charity solely supporting women with criminal records into employment, have responded to the announcement.
Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive of Working Chance, said:
Women often leave prison with little to no support, which is really concerning as the first weeks after leaving prison are critical for long-term rehabilitation. Employment provides people with the income, stability, and purpose they need to move forward with their lives and care for their families; it also reduces reoffending and keeps our communities safe. Having employment advisors in prisons and a job-matching service can put people in a much better place to find work on release, but to be effective, this support must be gender-responsive and trauma-informed.
Alice Dawnay, founder and CEO of Switchback, said:
Tens of thousands of people walk out the prison gate each year with no plan, nowhere to go and no support, which is driving reoffending and unemployment. The government's commitment to improve access to ID and bank accounts is very welcome, but much more is needed to give people a real chance to leave crime behind. That means access to housing and a phone on release, but also, crucially, meaningful support to build a stable life in work. Switchback's experience shows that with skilled 1-to-1 support, real change is possible. We urge the government to look at what works and deliver a more ambitious long-term plan to tackle reoffending.
Natasha Finlayson added:
The government’s focus on prison education and employment are welcome, but government plans to build more prisons on the presumption that the prison population will increase are counter-productive, as having a criminal record is a massive barrier to employment, particularly for women, who are twice as likely as men to be faced with enhanced criminal record checks because they tend to enter heavily regulated sectors like nursing, education and social care. We must prevent women from being caught up in the powerful currents of the criminal justice system and guide them to a place of stability where they have a chance to thrive. Put simply, the vast majority of women sent to prison should not be there.
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For more information or interviews with spokespeople or people supported by Working Chance, please contact:
Communications Officer at Working Chance
Switchback is an award-winning charity enabling young Londoners to find a way out of the justice system and build a stable, rewarding life. Through intensive 1-to-1 support on both sides of the prison gate alongside real work training after release, we support young men to change their relationship with society. While 46% of prison leavers reoffend within a year nationally, for men supported by Switchback, the figure is just 9%. Switchback’s approach to policy is led by its Experts By Experience Board - a group of young men who have been supported by the charity after leaving prison. Find out more at www.switchback.org.uk or @switchback_ldn.
About Working Chance
Working Chance is the UK’s only charity dedicated exclusively to supporting women with convictions into employment. We provide women with convictions with the skills and support they need to develop their employability, and help them build lives that give them purpose, hope and financial independence. We also work to create better-informed and more empathetic attitudes about women with convictions and to raise awareness about the issues that often underlie women’s offending. Find out more at www.workingchance.org.