Employment agency set up for ex-prisoners after Shropshire woman teams up with HMP Featherstone.

A Shropshire woman has set up a specialist employment agency to give ex-prisoners the chance to get back into work.

Kate Beech, who boasts more than 20 years in business, has teamed up with HMP Featherstone to launch her new company Chance (2013) Ltd to give prisoners the chance of temporary employment on release.

Mrs Beech from Ludlow said the level of skill and qualifications of many of the prisoners was often ignored due to their criminal background.

But during their time in prison she said many of them had developed a strong desire to work and even in some cases start a new career or for some return to the jobs they successfully held before being convicted.

Mrs Beech, who has offices in Wolverhampton and at HMP Featherstone, visits the prison regularly to interview the candidates identifying their skills and work desires in order to find suitable work placements on their release.

“The relationship between staff at Chance and prisoners is built up over the final three months of their sentence so we are confident we place them with the appropriate employer and within the right industry.

“For example if someone had been convicted of petty theft we would not place them in a cash handling role.

“I may have built up the trust with the prisoner but we understand the employer has to then build up their own trust with them,” Mrs Beech said.

“I will have spent several hours with the candidates whereas other employment agencies may have only spent half an hour with a candidate before placing them in a job.”

Mrs Beech said after speaking to prisoners the most common statement was that they “committed a further offence or breached their licence conditions as they didn’t have work and more importantly didn’t have the support to find a job”.

“The skills, ability and knowledge these people hold is immense but they often lack the chance or opportunity which is what I am finding them,” she added.

Mrs Beech is also working with charities and rehabilitation groups to offer general support to the prisoners when they are released.

“Twenty-five per cent of the adult male population have a criminal record and that can be for anything and for many different reasons.

“The process I go through is very specific in order to find the perfect candidate - I am quite realistic that there are many people in the prison system who will not be taken on by Chance as I do not believe they are ready for work.

“The people I am working with specifically want to come out and earn a living and gain the respect from family, friends and employers they lost the minute they went into prison,” she said.

“This recruitment process means they will come out paying National Insurance and paying their own rent rather than relying on benefits until they find a job which may never happen on their own.

“I have already identified a couple of people who will make super ambassadors for my company and for the reputation of reformed prisoners.”

HMP Featherstone is an adult Category C Closed Training prison that provides education, training and work experience for prisoners who are coming to the end of their sentence.  

Staffordshire Euro MP Phil Bennion, a member of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee who covers Staffordshire and Shropshire praised the work of Chance (2013) Ltd as “truly inspirational” during a recent visit to HMP Featherstone.

“It is clear that prisoners are benefitting from carrying out a full day’s work.

“Local businesses can also benefit from tapping into a workforce that is trained and qualified with real experience.

“I was extremely impressed. The evidence is clear that this sort of approach does cut crime and reduces costs and it should be rolled out across the entire prison service,” he said.

Any businesses interested in discussing their employment needs with Kate should e-mail [email protected] or call 07720861919.

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