Business and charities join forces to tackle cycle of re-offending

In Chamber News by Sarah Medcraf

New Release Scotland partnership stresses benefits of employing people with convictions.

A new partnership aimed at unlocking the potential of people with criminal convictions has won the backing of business leaders, charities and the Scottish Government.

Release Scotland is set to provide a one-stop shop for employers in Scotland seeking advice and help with recruiting people with convictions when it launches today.

Major employers including Greggs, Virgin Trains, Timpson and Reed Global and business network, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, have come together to launch the partnership in a bid to demonstrate the positive role people with convictions can play in helping businesses succeed. And they have called on other employers to join up and consider what this group of employees can offer.

Through the www.releasescotland.com website, employers will be offered help with practical steps in the full recruitment process from application stage to interview stage to making the decision and creating a supportive work environment.

The initiative is backed the Scottish Prison Service and government agencies working in Scotland to help people with convictions develop their potential in the workplace and contribute to a successful, growing economy.

Getting a job is known to be one of the key factors in helping people with a criminal record turn their lives around, contribute to society and avoid reoffending. Yet previous research has shown that three-quarters of companies in the UK would not consider recruiting someone with a criminal record.

With more than a third of all male adults in Scotland having a conviction in their past and 9% of women, Release Scotland aims to widen understanding of the benefits that people who have been through the justice system can bring to a business. The partnership offers helpful insights, real-life examples and support, all of which help businesses to improve the diversity of their workforce and better represent the society we live in.

Speaking ahead of the launch of Release Scotland at The Scottish Parliament tonight, supported by Scottish Chambers of Commerce and with cross-party support, Finance

Secretary Derek Mackay said: “There are clear social and economic benefits to helping people with convictions move on and play a positive role in helping Scotland’s economy flourish. The Scottish Government supports the aims of Release Scotland and we are committed to helping more men and women with a criminal record turn their lives around and gain employment.  Through the ‘Scotland Works for You’ initiative, we aim to help people with convictions attain the benefits that work brings for reducing reoffending and also, for employers, in finding loyal and dedicated staff.  Proposals to reduce the period of time an individual has to disclose a previous conviction to employers recently introduced to Parliament by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice will also aid this process.”

Liz Cameron OBE, Director & CEO, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “I would encourage all employers to connect with Release Scotland and start to engage with this important network. Understanding the recruitment benefits of hiring people with convictions and getting to grips with the practical aspects will enable businesses to expand their recruitment pool. It also offers an excellent opportunity to link up with existing employers who have had success in recruiting people with convictions such as Virgin Trains, Greggs and Timpson.”

Pete White, Release Scotland, said: “We believe that people with convictions, of whatever sort are far less likely to re-offend if they are given an opportunity to work. Not only does reducing the level of reoffending mean there will be fewer victims of crime and less harm done, but as employed taxpayers, people with convictions are better able to contribute to the task of making Scotland a better place.”

“It’s generally understood that people who have come through the justice system and will start work, will probably be committed to doing the best they can in the workplace, often over and above the call of duty, so there are clear benefits for business. In addition, the fact that big companies such as Virgin, Greggs and Timpson are known to employ people with convictions, far from damaging their brands, has enhanced them.” 

Scottish Conservative Deputy Leader Jackson Carlaw MSP, said: “The Release Scotland initiative is to be commended and it can play an important part in providing greater employment opportunities for individuals in Scotland who have a conviction.

“Once an individual has served their time in prison, finding a suitable job is key to providing them with the opportunity to make a positive contribution to society and avoid reoffending in future. I am delighted to be hosting this reception at the Scottish Parliament and I look forward to meeting with many of the organisations already involved with the endeavour.” 

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder, said: “Recruiting people with convictions is not only good for society, it is smart business practice. We’ve identified people with talent, ambition and drive at Virgin Trains by looking beyond their criminal record and seeing what they have to offer. I’d encourage other businesses to give this a go and look at what people with convictions can do to help your organisation succeed.” 

Roisin Currie, People and Retail Director at Greggs, said: “We’ve a long-standing history of working with people from disadvantaged backgrounds, including people with convictions. The passion and energy for work that comes from people who are given an opportunity to kick-start their careers, or to turn their lives around is clear for all to see and as a business, we feel extremely motivated to do all we can to give these people a ‘fresh start’.

“Our dedicated programme, ‘Fresh Start’, offers support to the many people who find gaining employment through conventional routes more difficult. Fundamentally the programme aims to help break the cycle of re-offending by demonstrating that people with convictions can play a meaningful role within business. We believe our programme addresses societal issues such as high unemployment and re-offending rates.

“We are proud of our partnership with Release Scotland and look forward to driving awareness and sharing our experience as an employer to help others realise the benefits of recruiting people with convictions.”

James Timpson, chief executive of Timpson Group, said: “Recruiting people with convictions has been a significant factor in the continued success of our business. By offering people a second chance and allowing them to have a fresh start it enables us to attract great colleagues to work in our business. Not only are these colleagues very loyal and hardworking but by offering them a career with Timpson, it means that they are much less likely to re-offend, which is good for everyone”.