Rehabilitation of offenders is a key component of our justice system and rightly so. But with reoffending now costing the public purse £18bn each year, it is clear that as a society we need to do better.
Employment is the lynchpin of a successful rehabilitative approach. An ex-offender in employment is less likely to offend again compared to a contemporary without employment. But we cannot simply expect prisoners to be work ready when they leave prison or rely on short, sharp interventions just before or after release. This approach has been tried in the past and the evidence shows it falls short.
Many of the individuals that make up our prison population face barriers to employment that go far beyond the simple fact that they are serving a custodial sentence. To tackle these barriers, we need real investment in practical training during the course of their sentence, not last-minute add-ons or short-term measures. And the training we provide must be meaningful, leading to real skills, real qualifications and real opportunities on the outside.
It is all too easy to stick to the status quo and fall back into familiar approaches, but by doing so we will not change outcomes. We need to think differently if we are going to deliver meaningful change that turns lives around and benefits wider society.
Amey’s CRED scheme aims to support this change. By working proactively with our customers and colleagues in Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) as well as our supply chain partners, we are helping people access skills and transform their living environments in prison. Importantly, through these partnerships we also give people the opportunity to transform their outcomes post-custody and change their lives, no matter what their background or history.
As a major player in facilities management for HMPPS, Amey is in a unique position to help spearhead the employment support essential to changing outcomes. Its CRED scheme – standing for clean, rehabilitative, enabling and decent – is a proactive and collaborative approach to supporting cleaner and more decent prisons and tackling employment barriers.
Part of a four-step structured programme run with partner organisations, CRED engages prisoners in improving their living environments. It supports participants to acquire new practical skills through working alongside qualified tradespeople. As well as painting and decorating, participants learn handyperson skills assembling cell furniture and fittings.
Important interview preparation and coaching is provided through a relationship between Amey and New Futures Network– the specialist part of HMPPS that brokers partnerships between prisons, probation and employers. New Futures Network are also leading programmes that enable eligible prisoners secure bank accounts for use on release and forms of ID.
The impact on prisoners’ life chances is profound. But CRED also leads to a startling difference in the prison environment, and this is seen right across participating prisons, from Durham to New Hall. Participants also report a marked increase in well-being, confidence and morale as they develop new skills and access real work experience and job opportunities.
CRED is already live in more than half of the 60 prisons Amey manages with plans to expand it further already in the pipeline. In one month alone, it provides more than 22,000 hours of high-quality training and support to prisoners in a whole range of institutions, helping to tear down barriers to employment and open up new opportunities.
We are leading the way for facilities management providers by offering structured support like this. It is key to reducing reoffending, improving outcomes for those leaving custody and benefiting wider society. But CRED delivers another critical benefit in terms of tackling the skills gap, mirroring education in prison to the skills that are needed in society.
The social and moral imperative for schemes like this is clear. But there is also a strong financial case for these interventions. In England and Wales, re-offending currently costs the taxpayer an estimated £18 billion annually. Reducing this bill can only be a good thing.
As facilities management providers we must acknowledge that KPIs cannot measure everything. CRED and its associated programmes deliver social value way over and above contractual value, changing lives and delivering value to the taxpayer. It is a prime example of what can be achieved if we are prepared to look beyond the tried and tested. We should all be prepared to think differently if we are to genuinely improve outcomes for individuals, the organisations we work with and society at large.