Working With Ex-Offenders: Unlock Employment

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At Careers in Justice, we know that offenders have an opportunity to receive an excellent education in prison, but there can still be a number of challenges awaiting them on their release. Finding a job is one of them. We spoke to Gerald Keogh, the founder of Unlock Employment (a new social enterprise that helps the disadvantaged find employment), about what these barriers are, why they should be overcome and how he and his organisation help to achieve this.

At Unlock Employment, how do we help ex-offenders find employment?

As a social enterprise, Unlock Employment is committed to improving the lives of all members of the community, regardless of their criminal record. We work hard to break down the barriers that restrict employment opportunities for ex-offenders and aim to reduce reoffending by finding sustainable employment for ex-offenders.

We are currently trying to create a pathway to connect businesses and job ready ex-offenders. We support both parties throughout every step of the ensuing employment journey, including providing businesses with job ready clients (ex-offenders) that are best suited to the roles.

Why do we do this?
The economic and societal benefits of ex-offender recruitment are vast:

  • Employment reduces the probability of reoffending by up to 50%.
  • In 2013/14, just 25% of prisoners entered employment on release from prison.
  • Employment is one of the most strongly correlated predictors of reduced reoffending.
  • Recruiting ex-offenders helps establish financial stability, making a real difference to local communities and improving the quality of people’s lives, their environment and their life chances.

Anyone who currently works in the field will understand that all this is easier said than done, I have worked with the long-term unemployed within the welfare to work sector for many years, so I have seen the barriers that many ex-offenders have to deal with and overcome just to find employment. I also have first-hand experience as I am myself an ex-offender having served a prison sentence ten years ago and understand the barriers that can be put in your way.

My own thoughts are that employment reduces reoffending and this, in turn, has a direct impact on the familial and social effects of crime reduction within our community. However, employment alone is not enough. Unlock Employment manages this by not only finding employment for ex-offenders, but also providing on-going support (in-work support where possible) in order to achieve sustainable employment.

We address not only barriers that a client may face in finding employment but also the barriers that the ex-offender themselves may put up. I do believe that sometimes the biggest barrier an ex-offender finds to employment is themselves, which is not the most popular opinion to hold. I help to try and change mind-sets with regards to what I would call a ‘victim culture’ that some ex-offenders can carry: “no one will employ me as am an ex offender, I can’t find a job because I’m an ex-offender, do you want to know what I was inside for?” This mind set can be one of the biggest barriers to finding employment.

Another can be the tick box that asks people to declare any criminal convictions on job application forms. With the change in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, lots of ex-offenders don’t realise that spent convictions do not need to be declared, thus taking away the need to Tick the Box.

Education and support come hand in hand. Unlock Employment aims to provide both of these to find sustainable, stable employment for ex-offenders. We know that through these things reoffending can be prevented.

If you have enjoyed reading this story and would like to help ex-offenders find employment or give them the training they need, please click here to go to our jobs page and see the latest roles available.