The leading charity for people with convictions has welcomed a report published today by the Work and Pensions Committee which calls on government to drastically improve the support provided to people released from prison and do more to encourage employers to recruit people with convictions.
Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock, said:
“Today’s report shows that current government policy is failing people with convictions. There is no one person in government with responsibility for helping prison leavers into work and no clear strategy for how different agencies should work together to get people with convictions into employment.
“We are delighted that the Work and Pensions Committee has listened to the evidence that we submitted and has made a number of recommendations which, if implemented by government, would vastly improve the chances of people with convictions to become positive members of society rather than burdens of the state. Only a quarter on people leaving prison have a job to go to, yet stable employment significantly reduces the likelihood of people re-offending in the future.”
“Employers need to be encouraged to change their recruitment practices, and piloting a reduction in National Insurance contributions for those who actively employ people with convictions is a welcome step forward. Unlock supports the Committee’s recommendation of taking the “ban the box” campaign further by considering putting it on a statutory footing for all employers. We know that this practical change in recruitment practice, alongside other ‘fair chance recruitment’ measures, increases the chances that employers will recruit people with convictions.”
“We are pleased that the Ministry of Justice is working on a new employment strategy. This needs to be done jointly with the Department for Work and Pensions and place significant focus on people with convictions in the community. Crucially, it must recognise that no level of training or education in prison will overcome the negative approaches taken by employers, so supporting and challenging employers in their recruitment practices needs to be a fundamental part of this strategy. More broadly, government needs to fundamentally reform the law around criminal records disclosure to prevent the unnecessary and disproportionate barriers that people face long after they’ve served their sentence.”
The Committee encouraged employers to change their recruitment process and made a number of recommendations to both government and companies, including:
- Extending Ban the Box to all public bodies, with exclusions for the minority of roles where it would not be appropriate for security reasons
- Piloting the reduction of National Insurance contributions for those employers who actively employ people with convictions
- Consider making banning the box a statutory requirement for all employers and develop practical guidance to help employers recruit people with a criminal record
- All prisons should be required to demonstrate strong links with employers, including local businesses
- Government clearly state who has ultimate responsibility for helping prison leavers into work
- All Jobcentres should have a specified person who specialises in helping ex-offenders into employment with expertise on matters such as disclosure of convictions
- Recognising employers that actively employ people with convictions by factoring it into procurement and commissioning decisions
- The Work and Pensions Committee held an inquiry into support for ex-offenders. The report published today is available on their website here and a summary of the inquiry is available here.
- Unlock submitted written evidence to the Committee – available here.
- Unlock gave oral evidence to the Committee, which can be watched online here.
- Unlock also carried out a survey on people released from prison – available here.
- More details on Unlock’s policy work to improve support for people with convictions into employment is available here.
- More details on Unlock’s policy work to support and challenge employers in employing people with convictions is available here.