Recycling Lives’ Chairman believes Government prison apprenticeship scheme needs to be more ambitious

The Government should be more ambitious in its drive to introduce apprenticeships for prisoners in UK prisons according to Andrew Hodgson Executive Chairman of Recycling Lives, a recycling company that already delivers substantial social impact through its work with ex-offenders.

Mr Hodgson has welcomed the initiative under which prisoners will be offered apprenticeships and job-based training in a move that aims to cut the £18 billion cost of reoffending and address labour shortages in key industries. Evidence shows that prison leavers in work are significantly less likely to re-offend.

But he would like to see the new scheme rolled out more quickly and dove-tailed more effectively into the opportunities already being provided by Recycling Lives and other companies.  He also wants the support for offenders to go beyond simply providing a job which is one vital step on the rehabilitation ladder.

Mr Hodgson explains: “This is great news. But we can only maximise reducing reoffending if we use these initiatives to benefit the education system, the prison estates and business across the country. Since 2016 Recycling Lives has helped in excess of 500 ex-offenders to transform their lives, and we continue to provide support for ex-offenders once they are employed with our company because that is an essential part of the process to ensure it is sustainable.  
“Business has to be involved in the design of these apprenticeship routes alongside the justice system to help expand the available workforce and deliver the reduction on crime and reoffending.”

Having grown around a strong belief in social sustainability, the Recycling Lives business and charity work together seamlessly to maximise social value and life-changing initiatives. Together they are actively engaged with 29 custodial settings across the UK to rehabilitate ex-offenders and help lower reoffending rates by providing support and work opportunities.

Recycling Lives has pioneered award-winning programmes and currently operates seven Academy workshops within prisons across the North West, Yorkshire and East Midlands, where ex-offenders can earn, gain skills, and pave the way for employment on their release. In partnership with the Recycling Lives social enterprise, Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) opportunities are provided for offenders to work outside the prison environment when they are approaching the end of their sentence, and employment and support is provided for newly released offenders.

Mr Hodgson adds: “So, for example, if Recycling Lives has a workshop in prison, then the apprenticeship needs to be linked to that, building on the knowledge that it can lead to sustainable employment for the men and women upon release. This sort of joined-up thinking will encourage more businesses to develop workshops within the prison estates and get involved with helping offenders. 

“At Recycling Lives, we prioritise delivering social impact across every aspect of our business, both in the recycling circular economy and beyond it. We have provided employment for hundreds of people within the justice system and a substantial part of our existing 500-strong workforce is made up of ex-offenders. We are now developing plans to increase the number of Academies and extend our work with prisons and police forces still further, providing more opportunities to cut re-offending and reduce crime.”

Currently prisoners are unable to take advantage of apprenticeships. The Government plans to change the law so that prisoners at open prisons across England can apply for apprenticeship opportunities in vital industries, including hospitality and construction, providing direct routes into jobs with businesses in the community. The scheme will initially be offered up to 100 prisoners across England before being rolled out across the wider prison estate.

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, said: “Getting offenders into work offers them a second chance to lead a more positive life and stay on the straight and narrow. Breaking the cycle of crime is critical to our mission to drive down reoffending, cut crime and protect the public.”

Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi said: “We want everyone to have access to the high-quality training they need to progress and build a brighter future.

“Apprenticeships will offer prisoners a lifechanging chance to gain the skills they need to secure a rewarding career, while providing more businesses with the skilled workforce they need to grow.”

The new scheme is the latest step in the government’s drive to boost the number of prison leavers with jobs. Prisoners are already able to study, train and work while in jail and a further 5,000 prisoners take part in vital work in the community through release on temporary license, where they learn important skills and help shore up local labour shortages.

The latest scheme will see hundreds of prisoners start an apprenticeship by 2025, with pre-apprenticeship training offered to thousands more – preparing them for a full apprenticeship scheme or a higher skilled job on release.