The Textile Services Association has begun the relaunch of its "Giving People a Second Chance" initiative that aims to build relationships between the laundry industry and the prison service's New Futures Network (NFN) to build skills and create job opportunities for ex-offenders.
The NFN brokers partnerships between employers and prisons, helping to identify the best ways for organisations to get involved with providing vital work experience for serving prisoners as well as building up numbers of viable employees. With the staff shortages currently facing the textile services industry, the TSA feels that this is a win-win situation for its members and for ex-offenders.
The laundry industry is ideally suited for involvement in these partnerships. Laundry services are a vital part of prison life and form one of the main methods of providing employment and training to serving prisoners. All laundry for prisons is carried out within prisons, and currently about 500 prisoners are employed in this activity across the UK.
The NFN and the prison service offer several ways for businesses to get involved. This varies from employing serving prisoners within production facilities in prisons, to employing risk-assessed inmates who have been Released On Temporary License (ROTL) on day release. And finally, helping to arrange interviews with serving offenders in the hopes of offering them full employment upon release.
Rebecca Morgan, head of HR at Johnson Hotel Linen, a company working with the TSA and the New Futures Network to spearhead the new scheme, said: "I went to an employment open day at a local prison, it completely changed my view on offenders and ex-offenders and what they can offer. Those I spoke to were polite and engaged and have turned out to be very reliable and motivated employees."
While some companies may be wary about employing ex-offenders, Morgan is clear that it is no riskier than hiring anyone else. "Everyone on this scheme has been fully vetted, and are all looking for a second chance. A lot of the time they believe that there aren't employers out there willing to give them that chance, but I've seen so many success stories come out of it I would recommend it to all laundry companies. It can change lives!"
Jason Errington, head of operations for industries, in the prison service's rehabilitation and care services group has been co-ordinating the laundry services with the NFN at a number of prisons and is equally enthusiastic about the potential for the scheme.
"The people we get into employment generally stay in employment," he says. "Schemes like this are an important part in reducing reoffending and are a great way to fill some of the staff shortages the laundry industry is facing."