On Thursday 31 March, Business in the Community (BITC), the responsible business network, brought eleven different organisations inside the gates of Hydebank Wood College, Belfast’s young offenders and women’s prison to share with students in this secure college how they might consider entering the world of work upon their release.
Sara Neilson, Employability Manager from BITC explains why: “More than 11 million people in the UK have criminal convictions. The biggest influencing factor in reducing re-offending is employment. It is critical that young people who have a criminal conviction can see life beyond offending, and it’s also important for employers to recognise that they have the power to change someone’s life through employment; even those who’ve had a troubled part in their life”
Organisations attending included: Allen & Overy, Allstate NI, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Farrans, Foyle Food Group, GLOW, Idverde, Kerr’s Tyres Mobile Tyre Fitters, NIACRO, The Turnaround Project and Women’s Tec.
Julie Steele, The Advantage Foundation that manages Mugshots – a practical social enterprise that works directly with young offenders in Hydebank, and part of the Advantage Group, adds: “The young men we work with will become ex-offenders when they leave Hydebank. The odds stacked against these young people can seem like a mountain. Almost 33% of young people who offend are not in full-time education, training or employment at the end of their period of youth justice supervision; and more than 75% have serious difficulties with literacy. More than half of the young people who offend have themselves been victims of crime, and 42% of children on custodial sentences had been ‘held in care’, while 17% were on the child protection register. When we dig beyond the convict headline and delve deeper into the ‘why’ they offend, our perceptions often reverse.
“We need everyone in society to give them the second, or for most part, the first chance they need to become contributing members of our communities.”
BITC’s Ban the Box campaign, which has seen more than one million jobs open up across the UK aims to give people with convictions a fairer chance at securing employment, by encouraging companies to ask the conviction question at a later point in the application process. This reduces the risk of unfair discrimination and overlooking talent.
Ban the Box asks companies to commit to:
- Removing the conviction question tick box from the initial job application stage
- Considering applicants skills, experience, and ability to do the job before asking about criminal convictions
- Reviewing their recruitment processes
BITC helps businesses navigate their way through the issues and find ways to actively support.