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Business leaders call for guidance on best practice when recruiting ex-offenders

Business leaders feel more could be done to improve knowledge and understanding of how to minimise risks and share best practice, when recruiting ex-offenders, according to a report published yesterday.

The report by Business in the Community (BITC), as part of the research programme undertaken by the Transition to Adulthood Alliance, consulted eight UK employers including Marks & Spencer, Timpsons and Lend Lease, that are pioneering successful employment schemes for groups facing barriers to work. Despite breaking new ground, they complain about a lack of adequate publicly shared information on how companies should make recruitment decisions when hiring offenders.

The Government is about to respond to its consultation on the sentencing Green Paper, which called on employers to create more avenues into work for ex-offenders. BITC has identified three critical factors for success to help companies committed to reducing re-offending through employment.

It encourages companies to:

Work in partnership and share the risk - companies should work with voluntary organisations or statutory bodies responsible for young adult offenders who will better understand the barriers to employment they face. Together they can create sustainable pathways to work for these individuals.

Provide work experience opportunities - work placements offer young adults the opportunity to prove themselves, build their confidence, and enhance their employability. At the same time it allows companies to test whether a person is suitable for employment.

Consider the circumstances and personal journey of the individual - this includes realistically assessing risk and ensuring the company protects the individual and those with whom he/she comes into contact. Ideally only one or two colleagues should be involved in this process.

Edwina Hughes, campaign manager: Reducing Re-offending, Business in the Community said: "We are delighted that the Government has officially recognised the vital role employers play in reducing re-offending rates. Clearly there is a lot of excellent work already taking place among UK employers but at the moment these are isolated pockets of success. Businesses need encouragement and support to share their experiences on how to work safely and constructively with young adults who have been in trouble with the law."

James Timpson, MD of Timpson, added: "At Timpson, we selectively recruit both men and women directly from prison. We have over 100 examples of ex offenders who have quickly become a crucial part of the shops team and have not returned to their previous criminal past. It's great seeing their personalities come to life as their confidence grows as they learn the required skills to run a Timpson shop."