The barriers to employment for people with mental health problems are well documented but for those with mental health problems in the criminal justice system the barriers are even higher.
Discrimination, disempowerment, lack of up-to-date skills, lack of self confidence, no recent track record of employment and a lack of skilled support to help overcome these barriers are the common experience of all too many people who have experienced mental ill health.
Two-thirds of the people who go to prison are unemployed - this is thirteen times more than the national unemployment rate. Furthermore, around two-thirds of those who do have a job lose it whilst in custody.
Enabling a person with a history of offending to get and keep a job is probably the most effective intervention anyone can make to prevent reoffending and improve their chances of leading a better life. Yet less than one-third of released prisoners have a job or a place in training or education to which to go.
We have brought together our two main work areas of employment and criminal justice to develop pathways into employment for people with mental health problems in the criminal justice system. We work in partnership with key agencies, including the National Offender Management Services and Ministry of Justice.
Building on the work of our current employment programme, we have been exploring how the principles of Individual Placement and Support can be applied in the criminal justice system.
Our latest work, Beyond the Gate, is the result of an 18-month partnership programme that explored the elements of effective practice in this area. We worked with partner organisations which have demonstrated a commitment to supporting offenders and ex-offenders into employment, despite the challenges this poses. The organisations are:
We visited prisons, probation services and other sites across the country to find examples of where offenders with mental health problems are being supported into paid work. We carried out in depth interviews with partners in the programme, offenders and ex-offenders and the agencies they work with. Along with the results of earlier research, we applied the evidence of what works outside the criminal justice system, with the experiences of those working within it, to achieve good outcomes to produce a set of five key elements of effective practice which it believes should be in place universally.
For more information about the employment of offenders project, please contact email@example.com.