Ex-offenders given second chance through new construction employment programme

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A ground-breaking new scheme which offers prisoners paid work on construction sites is helping individuals return to the community and reduce reoffending.

The Brighter Pathways programme – a partnership between Wates Residential and One Way, a recruitment supplier – supports offenders in the last 18 months of their sentence, helping them to find and retain employment, and secure affordable accommodation.

A successful pilot has now been completed with HMP Ford in West Sussex, close to where Wates Residential is currently undertaking regeneration work to the river wall at Free Wharf in Shoreham in partnership with Southern Housing Group to make way for over 500 new waterfront homes. Wates Residential is now looking at further placements across its projects, with the wider Group also considering rolling out the scheme across more sites in London and the south.

Adults released from custodial sentences of less than between July to September 2017 had a proven reoffending rate of 62.2% over a 12 month follow-up period. But at HMP Ford, their reoffending rate is 9% due to the rehabilitation services and work programmes that are available in the area.

The New Futures Network, a specialist part of the prison service responsible for brokering relationships between businesses and prisons, supported the partnership between Wates Residential and One Way with HMP Ford. The prison identified a possible candidate for a job on Wates Residential’s site in Shoreham as a Gateman and Vehicle and Machinery Traffic Marshall.

Mo, who was relocated to HMP Ford’s open prison in West Sussex just over a year ago. He applied for a job and after an impressive interview, started work in April 2019. He was the first individual to secure work through this pioneering programme.

Before beginning on site, Mo completed checks with the local authority and probation service, in addition to health and safety checks, a fit to travel medical and a number of risk assessments.

A typical day for Mo involves an early start, as he is in charge of managing the main entrance gate to the site and directing site vehicles to their stations. Mo hadn’t originally considered a career in construction, but since working on the site, he has gone from strength to strength and has been upskilled to a Plant Machinery Marshall.

Since being released from prison, Mo has now been offered a permanent position as a Gateman for the Shoreham site and thinks he has found a “vocation for life”. He now hopes to use this employment as a platform to gain further experience and qualification in trades such as drylining and brickwork.

Commenting on the programme, Mo said:

“I can’t believe I have been given this fantastic opportunity with Wates Residential and One Way. The day I was told that I had been successful, I just kept smiling. I have been given a second chance to turn my life around and this opportunity will really help me to get my life back on track so that I can make my mum proud of me again.

“I feel lucky to have two companies believe in me enough to give me another chance and to invest in training me. I am excited for my future, working in construction and staying out of prison.”

The announcement comes as the construction industry faces the twin challenges of an ageing workforce and poor talent pipeline. Figures from The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) highlight that the industry will need to find 157,000 new recruits by 2021 to keep up with demand. Brighter Pathways is about upskilling future construction workers, lifting the pressure of the skills shortage facing the industry and helping to ensure its future success.

Paul Nicholls, Managing Director for Wates Residential, said:

“Everyone deserves a second chance and the Brighter Futures programme offers a real opportunity for ex-offenders to access sustainable training employment opportunities to support their rehabilitation back into the community and set them up for the future. It also makes real business sense to recruit from a wider talent pool if we are to remain fit for the future and address the industry’s widening skills gap.”

Sasha Bayly-Simmonds, Project Lead at One Way, said:

“For One Way this is very much about making a change, we have the resources to change someone’s life. Why wouldn’t we? The programme has enabled us to offer someone a career and a real chance at reform. The Brighter Futures partnership has enabled us to move someone straight into work on release, with career prospects and a fresh start”.

Duncan O’Leary, CEO, New Futures Network, said:

“It was great to hear what a positive start Mo has made and the wider impact employment has had on his life. NFN are looking forward to working with Wates Residential and One Way on future projects; and to support prisons to put forward talented, motivated individuals to be part of their workforce.”