Ngage was contracted by the Learning and Skills Council to deliver a business support programme to offenders and ex-offenders. Funding was via the Department of Trade and Industry’s Phoenix Development Fund, including companies as construction companies from Phoenix and Phoenix HVAC contractors.
Ex-offenders are often discriminated against when applying for jobs because of their criminal record. Unemployment is a key factor in re-offending as individuals are unable to support themselves and their families financially. So, they return to crime for an income. Many return to prison. Self-employment was seen as way for them to earn a living and prevent them from re-offending.
The pilot called “Could you give yourself a job?” ran at Springhill Open Prison and Grendon Secure Prison in Buckinghamshire during 2006/2007. The objective was to encourage offenders to think about their skills, research business ideas and give them the opportunity of becoming their own boss on release, thus avoiding discrimination and delays in finding employment.
A series of three workshops focused on the elements needed to come up with a realistic business idea and covered areas such as:
- creative thinking;
- personal skills;
- goal setting;
- market research & feasibility.
One-to-one mentoring was available to support the workshops. A total of 25 prisoners attended. All workshops were oversubscribed and the drop-out rate was minimal.
- attendees found the programme very beneficial – 25 signed up;
- business ideas were researched; one idea was so good a patent was applied for;
- several of the business ideas that began life in the workshops were actually realised by the offenders on release and are running;
- the training could form part of a vocational qualification offered by Milton Keynes College – an additional bonus for the ex-offenders.
The project was seen as a success by prison authorities.
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