Offering ex-prisoners a second chance

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On a local site we relayed the news about Marks and Spencer’s employment experience schemes for people with different disabilities and those who had been in prison.

M&S achiever award

Their employability workshops for women prisoners and later, the support and training received by ex-offenders, helps those who succeed in gaining an accreditation, to get jobs with Marks & Spencer or another employer. A reference was also made to Greggs’ and Timpson’s work, so it was good to learn more about Timpson’s work from Emma Jacobs in the Financial Times later that month.

timpson foundation logo

Founded 11 years ago, the Timpson Foundation recruits and trains carefully selected prisoners and puts them to work in various businesses run by the family-owned chain. Dennis Phillips oversees the Timpson Foundation and gives them the opportunity to explain their background and work experience face to face. “It’s too easy to judge prisoners rather than understand,” he says. “It’s not about feeling sorry for them – just overcoming misunderstandings.” After their interview, Sarah Haines and Susanna Grant were offered sales jobs in Timpson-owned stores that they could attend while on day release. Prison staff, Ms Grant says, were often discouraging.

Ms. Haines was in Askham Grange, an open prison in the north of England. She was offered a job at Max Spielmann, the photography shop, owned by Timpson, while she was on day release. Nearing the end of her sentence – which had been reduced to three years – once prospective employers saw that she had a criminal record, none of her experience mattered.

prisoners timpsons

Ms Grant (above) says that a few sales staff from neighbouring shops, with whom she used to be friendly shunned her once they found out about her criminal past. One of her friends, who does not have a criminal record and is unemployed, is resentful of the opportunity she has been given, believing she has benefited from positive discrimination. Ms Grant is sympathetic to her friend’s position but is pragmatic. “I know I’ve done wrong. I’ve made it right now. I’ve been given another chance. My job is my safety net. It keeps me in a routine. I know I’ve got to go to work. I don’t want to mess up.”

Today 8% of Timpson’s 3,000-strong workforce are former offenders. Of those Mr Phillips says there is a 75% retention rate, which compares favourably with the rest of the company’s employees.

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