Test project builds job prospects for prisoners

Leeds City Council is offering valuable work experience to offenders in a new pilot project.

Working with HMP Leeds, the council has taken on a team of people nearing the end of their sentences. The six men joined the ranks of council staff in environmental services on a four-week placement at the end of September.

To help make the most of the voluntary placement The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) provided training in emergency first aid, team building and the specialist skills needed to carry out essential clean up tasks in south Leeds communities.

After completing an induction session and health and safety training, the team have been learning about environmental issues while they clear flytipped waste and litter from grot spots and cut back overgrown vegetation from ginnels and paths.

In order to be considered for the test programme, prisoners had to be working towards their release and all expressed a genuine desire to take part. Having been subjected to a robust assessment for suitability by staff at HMP Leeds, each potential candidate was also interviewed by council supervisors.

It’s hoped that the work experience will help bridge the gap between prison and getting into work on release.

And if successful, the pilot project could be taken up by other council services.

Councillor Mark Dobson, executive member for the environment, said:

“Working with our crews in environmental services, the participants will get a real insight into the inner workings of a big organisation like the council, what we’re looking for in an employee and how we support our employees in return.

“This shows the commitment of the council to provide meaningful rehabilitation support, working in partnership with HMP Leeds.

“The participants will gain first hand experience of how much effort and expertise it takes to keep our communities clean and the level of commitment needed for them to become reliable recruits for any business in the future.”

Councillor Adam Ogilvie, executive member for leisure and skills, said:

“Projects like this can offer those serving time the confidence and motivation they need to help them turn their lives around.

“These placements will be a really productive time for those taking part and we hope it will improve their job prospects on release; with relevant experience under their belts, they can get back into work and help break the cycle of re-offending.

“We’ll be watching the progress of those involved carefully and if successful we’ll look to run similar projects in the future.”

Steve Freer, business development manager, HMP Leeds, said:

“For ex-prisoners to be successful in what is already a very competitive job market, they need to be able to demonstrate they have a great work ethic and the desire to succeed.

“Voluntary work experience allows them to do this and is a key part of helping offenders resettle once they are released. We are grateful to employers like Leeds City Council in offering these opportunities.

“For an offender to participate in this worthwhile project, knowing they are repaying part of their debt to the community, and to come away with a reference supports HMP Leeds’ reducing re-offending agenda.

“It’s still early days but we’re hoping that this could be the start of a very productive project between Leeds City Council, HMP Leeds and the other organisations involved.”

For media enquiries please contact:

Amanda Burns, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1577

email: amanda.l.burns@leeds.gov.uk