The UK government has promised it will give 150 jobs in its probation service to ex-prisoners by next April, it was revealed on Thursday.
The former prisoners will reportedly help people still in jail but nearing the end of their sentences to prepare for release back into the community.
“The job of probation is to turn people’s lives around, to help support people to live fulfilling lives,” Prisons Minister Lucy Frazer told the Times of London.
“And if you’ve got somebody who has achieved that who is your peer mentor, for instance, in probation, I think that adds something to the role. We know that mentors are incredibly valuable in supporting people into work,” she said.
Frazer is supporting the Ban the Box campaign from Business in The Community (BITC).
At BITC, we truly believe ex-offenders deserve a fair chance during recruitment practices in the UK. As we incredibly approach 1 million jobs covered by our Ban the Box campaign, join us on Thursday to learn why 150 employers have committed to #BantheBox: https://t.co/1zzk3iYxED pic.twitter.com/3nRSYZtZLs
— Business in the Community (@BITC) February 8, 2021
The campaign signs up companies prepared to remove the criminal convictions question tick box from job application forms.
Signed-up companies instead leave questions about criminal convictions until later in their recruitment processes.
This is so a candidate’s skill set, experience, and abilities can be assessed first, rather than them being excluded from the outset solely because they have offended in the past.
In its response to a 2017 freedom of information request (pdf) made by Unlock, which supports people stigmatized due to their criminal past, the Home Office said there were over 11 million people in the UK with a criminal record.
Around 735,000 of these have “unspent convictions” which must be disclosed to an employer if they ask, Unlock said in a statement.
However, Francoise Seacroft Human Resources Director at BITC, which is itself a Ban the Box employer, said “Screening based on a tick box is not a way of excluding inappropriate applicants.
“We can’t assume that everybody with a criminal conviction poses a risk.”
Ban the Box firms agree to adjust their procedures to allow job applicants the chance to explain the circumstances.
Also to consider any conviction in terms of relevant risk within the specific role being applied for.
In some cases, questions about criminal convictions are not asked until a formal job offer is made or, for regulated roles, unless a legally required DBS (official criminal records) check has to be carried out.
The Ban the Box campaign has been running since 2013.
Since its launch it has covered a million jobs, it said in a statement, recruiting 150 employers to the cause of giving ex-convicts a second chance and fair access to employment.
The first company to sign up was UK health, beauty, and pharmacy chain, Boots UK Limited.
‘Not a Simple Issue’
“This is not a simple issue,” Marco Pagni, Group Legal Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer at Walgreen Boots Alliance said on the BITC website.
“People end up offending for a variety of complex reasons and as employers, the most powerful thing we can do is to help create a second chance for offenders … to enter employment and get back on track,” he said.
Secure employment for ex-offenders is widely believed to contribute to the reduction in re-offending rates.
“Almost half of all adult offenders released from custody re-offend within a year,” said Myles Director of 007 Pest Control.
“But evidence shows that having a job has been proven to reduce re-offending by 25–33 percent. We want to help that 25–33 percent,” he said.
Mags Patten Executive Director of Arts Council England meanwhile said the tick box on job applications is a “crude, blanket measure” that stifles talented applicants and sends an unnecessarily harsh message from the start.
“Humans possess a superpower—we can reimagine ourselves,” she said.
“Because we can dream of new ways to be, we can make positive change in our lives.”