Employment is key to the Government’s ambition for rehabilitation. For people with a history of offending, one of the most effective ways of preventing reoffending and improving their chances of leading a better life is to find and keep a job.

Reoffending costs the economy somewhere in the region of £11 billion. But only 25% of men leave prison into some form of employment and the statistic for women is even lower at 20%. There is an emerging body of evidence that additional support, particularly that which follows them through the prison gate, is more likely to help ex-prisoners.

The levels of poor mental wellbeing in prisons are significant, with some 90% of prisoners having a drug/alcohol problem, personality disorder or other mental health problem. People with mental health problems in the system are routinely excluded from vocational rehabilitation programmes.

Testing IPS for offenders leaving prison (current project)

The Centre is working on a three-year research project to implement IPS in completely new settings to learn how the model should be adapted to achieve successful outcomes for offenders with mental health problems. Thanks to funding from Garfield Weston, Henry Smith Charity and John Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, we are testing IPS at up to three sites in Shropshire and Staffordshire.

Three employment specialists trained in IPS are working with the prison mental health teams but also in prison resettlement departments. They engage prisoners at least four weeks before release and offer through-the-gate support. The specialist continues to work with both the released person, the receiving community mental health service and with employers post-release. 

Emerging evidence suggests that mentoring is a key component of successful resettlement. This project will include mentoring support for some of the people receiving this intervention to gauge its added value.

What you can do - in practice

We worked with partner organisations that support offenders and ex-offenders into employment to analyse the elements of effective practice:

  • Employers should play an instrumental role in creating and developing opportunities for paid work for offenders.
  • Recruitment needs to be pragmatic: on the basis of attitude and 'character' rather than qualifications or health status.
  • Support should be offered to employees and their managers for as long as they need it.
  • Opportunities for 'pre-employment' and 'in work' skills development should be linked to realistic employment opportunities: not training for its own sake.
  • Criminal justice and other statutory agencies should facilitate effective pathways and access to real work and appropriate skills development while offenders are in the criminal justice system.