Nigel Stabler & Jacob Hill, Offploy

An organisation founded by former inmates has been awarded a contract via the Ministry of Justice to help more than 250 ex-offenders find jobs in the North of England – in a bid to address the UK’s skills shortage, reduce reoffending, and make society safer.

Ex-offender employment specialist Offploy – and the National Probation Service – will support those with convictions in finding meaningful, mentored, and sustainable work across the North and South of Tyne, Hull and East Riding, and South Yorkshire.

The programme, which launched in September, has already seen at least 12 people secure employment – including one being appointed to a role within the UK Government’s COVID-19 testing programme.

Its launch follows a highly successful pilot scheme run in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which saw Offploy work alongside 70 candidates on their release from prison, 40% of whom went on to secure employment.

With 62% of Offploy’s own workforce having experienced the criminal justice system first-hand, the social enterprise – co-founded by former prisoner Jacob Hill and Hull businessman Nigel Stabler – has now been awarded a further contract to prepare an additional 225 candidates for employment, with the aim of reducing reoffending rates in the UK.

Jacob Hill explains: “A frequently-quoted statistic is that offenders are 9% less likely to reoffend if they have a job to go to when they are released from prison. However, the requirement to disclose any unspent criminal convictions can act as a significant barrier, and drive some back into the into the lifestyle and habits they were previously trapped in.

“Offploy doesn’t simply ‘broker’ jobs – we’ll support the candidate and their probation officer to get them ‘work ready’. This includes building confidence in applying for roles and interviewing, to providing support ahead of their start date, as well as on payday.”

Lynda Marginson CBE, regional probation director for the National Probation Service (Yorkshire and the Humber), added: “Offploy really understands the journey many of those supervised by probation have made – and the obstacles that can stand in their way when trying to find work.

“Offploy’s motivational and engaging approach, alongside strong links with training opportunities and employers, is helping ex-offenders to become work-ready and secure real jobs – breaking the cycle of re-offending and contributing positively to our local communities.

“The National Probation Service is delighted to be working in partnership with Offploy and investing in a future ground-breaking partnership.”

Acceptance to the programme is subject to a strict vetting process. Candidates are asked to complete a personal task – such as setting up a professional email address or opening a bank account – to demonstrate their willingness to participate and bring about change.

Jacob concluded: “Candidates have to want a fresh start for the programme to work. But, once part of the scheme, they are free to decide what’s happening with them, not to them. Support doesn’t stop when a job is secured either – we’re here for as long as they need us.

“The same applies for the employer too. To encourage more firms to engage with the scheme, we can help to develop an ex-offender recruitment strategy – and will cover the cost of most training.”