Horticulture scheme used to support ex-offender resettlement

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A social enterprise which offers training and employment opportunities for offenders and ex-offenders will be able to help more people after receiving funding.

Based at Thetford’s Charles Burrell Centre, The Horticulture Industry Scheme (THIS) offers apprenticeships and paid work placements.

The workers spend two or four months planting, nurturing and growing salad leaves and edible flowers to sell to nearby restaurants.

The scheme was launched in summer last year and has so far helped five people.

However a grant of £26,000 from the THIS WORKS programme, funded by the European Social Fund, will enable THIS to help 15 people over the next 12 months.

“We will be training the workers in horticulture and we will also do employability training,” said group co-founder and chief executive Georgina Keatley. “We will look at what employers want from them. Look at health and safety policies and things such as how to read a pay slip.

“They will keep a work book of everything they are doing. We will help them with resettlement issues such as how to open a bank account.”

She added: “The money will help us make a bigger social impact. We are trying to capture those who don’t want to re-offend and give them all of the support so they don’t.”

Those involved with THIS grow produce including chard, red-veined sorrel, bright and spicy salad mix and a range of edible flowers including borage.

These are currently supplied to The Mulberry, Thetford, The Courtyard Restaurant at the Elveden Estate and The Northgate in Bury St Edmunds.

It is hoped with more people benefiting from the scheme they can supply more restaurants over the coming year.

Craig Hutchison, from Norwich, has been involved with THIS for two months.

“I gain skills and hopefully I can get back into work full time,” said the 27-year-old. “I like working outside and its hands on. It is helpful.”

THIS will have to match fund the £26,000 grant and Ms Keatley said this will be achieved through the sales of the produce, training in prisons and through fundraising and other grants.

Source: Thetford and Brandon Times