Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner is calling on the business community to play their part in keeping the county safe by breaking down barriers to employment for ex-offenders.
PCC Stephen Bett is asking 100 organisations to pledge to offer a new opportunity to someone with a criminal conviction, with the aim of getting those individuals into long-term employment.
“Repeat offenders are responsible for a significant amount of the crime we have in Norfolk,” Stephen said. “We know that having a job can reduce the likelihood someone will go on to reoffend. But for many, the difficulty they face in finding employment can be a huge barrier to leaving their offending past behind them.”
The PCC brought 50 business representatives from all over Norfolk together at The Great Hospital to enlist their support for the Gateway to Employment campaign, launched in partnership with the Department of Work and Pensions.
Launching the campaign, Stephen said: “75% of employers will use the declaration of a criminal record to discriminate against a job applicant. Yet many of them have a skills shortage and would benefit from an increased pool of suitable candidates from which to recruit.
“There are 10 million people in the UK with a criminal record. Many of these people could be dedicated, trained and reliable workers. They just need to be given the opportunity to prove themselves.”
“We are asking our business community to show their support for Gateway to Employment by pledging to offer a new opportunity to someone with a criminal conviction. That could be an apprenticeship or work experience, or a training, mentoring or job opportunity.”
Among those already supporting the campaign are Chloe Smith MP, Clive Lewis MP, Richard Bacon MP and Will Styles and Steve Rodford, governors of Norwich and Wayland Prisons respectively. Gateway to Employment is also being backed by Sam Delcoure from Norse and Davina Tanner who set up Norwich’s Britannia Café – providing work experience and skills training for serving prisoners.
“There is a compelling business case in helping ex-offenders to turn their lives around by finding employment”, Stephen added. “The opportunities, skills and hope our businesses provide for people with convictions can help break the cycle of offending, which means fewer victims and less cost to public purse of the revolving prison door.
“If businesses support this campaign and offer the tools needed to secure a job for the future, in return, they’ll get a wealth of ability, loyalty and hard work.”
More information on Gateway to Employment can be found at www.gtoe.co.uk