Special guest sees prisoner rehabilitation in action

 

Research shows that the best way to keep ex-offenders out of prison is to get them into work as soon as possible after they re-enter society. To minimise the re-offending rate, charities and employers are pioneering new projects in the Wandsworth area to provide job opportunities to offenders from prisons such as HMP Wandsworth and HMP Brixton.

Quadron Services is a local employer which provides grounds maintenance services to Wandsworth Council and other local authorities. Blue Sky sub-contracts from Quadron some of this work and recruits ex-offenders to deliver it , while also ensuring that they are supervised, mentored and resettled once their 6-month contract comes to an end. The collaboration is successful, with workers integrating well into the maintenance teams, building their skills and earning a good wage.

To highlight this valuable work Dan Watkins, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Tooting, invited Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Justice, to meet these organisations and join an induction session for new recruits at Quadron Service’s yard on Tooting Common.

Mr Grayling heard the challenges faced by ex-prisoners looking for work, ranging from the difficulty of convincing employers to give them a job, to affording housing near to the workplace.

Fortunately, help is at hand from charities such as Blue Sky and RAPt, who help people with drug and alcohol dependence to overcome addiction, gain skills and find work. 

Attendees also heard Danny Broom’s story. Having done multiple spells in prison, he was provided mentoring by Wandsworth charity Carney’s Community and its founder George Turner. A discussion between George and Dan Watkins led to an introduction for Danny and two others to the Blue Sky team, who immediately placed them at Quadron Services. Danny’s hard work was rewarded when he was promoted to team leader, managing a small team that worked at Wandsworth Cemetery, and following this success he is now doing an apprenticeship with another local employer.

The Q&A session with Mr Grayling highlighted the challenges faced by those working at the coal face of prisoner and ex-prisoner employment, with ideas suggested that will help boost similar programmes operating across the country, so that more people can be given opportunities and re-offending rates reduced.

Finally, after a staff trainer provided an induction on operating an industrial-scale grass strimmer, trainee Darren Williams gave a masterclass in maintaining Tooting Common!

Chris Grayling:

Everyone here today should be proud of their efforts working in this challenging area. We can see the excellent results being achieved that are giving these young men the chance to lead a stable and independent life, free of crime.

Dan Watkins:

I’m honoured to have been able to have been involved with these fantastic local groups, working so hard to turn the lives around for these men. I hope that other employers will hear of these success stories at Quadron and will also want to get involved with this initiative.

Martyn Bradley, Quadron Services Operations Director:

We believe the key to success in this type of social enterprise is developing strong employment-focused relationships with the staff and our client base.

Working with Blue Sky has proved to be a real and productive partnership on the ground, enabling Quadron to meet our high standards. In addition, our relationship with Blue Sky has greatly increased the number of people we are able to reach and offer opportunities to, enabling us to meet our social responsibilities to the communities in which we work.

Cristina Fernandez, RAPt:

RAPt are proud to have been involved in today’s event. We are excited about developing new schemes to support people to build brighter futures for themselves, free from drugs and crime.

Darren Williams, Blue Sky employee:

By offering me this 6 month contract, Blue Sky is giving me a second chance that I never thought I’d get. This is my opportunity to show how hard I can work and what a good employee I can be.