Work and Pensions CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Timpson

Given the millions of people in the United Kingdom with some form of criminal conviction, we at Timpson believe that people deserve a second chance. This is not only a great way of helping people but also of getting people to work for us.

The programme effectively started some eight years ago when, during a visit to HMYOI Thorn Cross, Managing Director James Timpson came across a young man who so impressed him with his attitude and personality, that James gave him a guarantee of an interview following his release. This person so impressed at the interview that he has remained in our paid full-time employment ever since.

The appointment of a Timpson Foundation Ambassador, Dennis Phillips, enabled us to adopt a proactive approach in our dealings with the prison authorities. Dennis therefore actively interviews prisoners from a pool of some 80 prisons with a view to employing them on release, offering work experience, ROTL, or placements in the Timpson Foundation Academies. Dennis has since been joined by another colleague, such are the numbers nationally, and we have supplemented the support to Foundation colleagues with the appointment of a trained counsellor.

Alongside this recruitment stream, Timpson have a number of prison-based “Academies” and workshops, the first of which was set up in HMP Liverpool in 2008 and now has between 12–14 prisoners being trained at any one time, in Timpson core services of shoe repairs, engraving and watch repairs (no keys there). With a training academy and a workshop at HMP Blantyre House (12 prisoners) and a prison workshop at HMP Forrest Bank (20 prisoners), prisoners get the benefit of learning skills that can be immediate applied upon release by seeking a position with Timpson. Whilst there is no “guarantee” of a job, there is a guarantee of an interview for employment and a work-trial or “trial period”. All the ex-offender has to do is sufficiently impress his Area Manager and he is in. Given our near-1,000 nationwide branch network, we can easily accommodate prisoners who want to work in their home areas or those that need to relocate to a brand new geographic area to start their lives over again.

We have in place a pre-release plan for Foundation colleagues, which include considerations for housing needs and finding out about family support on the outside. The three areas which most prisoners on release struggle with are: housing, family and friends, and a job. Our experienced view is that, without those three key areas covered, re-offending takes place. The re-offending rate of our Foundation colleagues is very low. They are very low. Dennis on his pre-release plan actively works with housing associations and financial institutions to ensure offenders have full support on release.

Employing directly on release (following an interview) with Dennis and or the local Area Manager, and employing directly from the Academies, has proved to be very successful for Timpson. Approaching 80% of colleagues from prison are still with us some six months after joining. We estimate that about 20% leave us for other work. Whilst we have no way of tracking, our estimates are that around 20% re-offend, which of course stacks up very well against the national statistics for re-offending. For those colleagues we take on via the ROTL system, we have a 90% retention rate.

One particularly interesting area is the opportunities Timpson is able to offer female ex-offenders, who seem to be attracted to the Max Speilmann part of Timpson Group. Now, Timpson have a training Academy at HMP New Hall, Wakefield, where graduates are offered a work trial on release.

To-date, we have 235 Foundation colleagues, 142 of which are in our full-time paid employment. Such is the success of the Timpson Foundation that we have started to recruit ex-offenders for other retailers as well. We accept that, despite someone coming through our prison training academies, it may well be that the ex-offender is better suited to a different type of employer (retail/warehousing/hotels etc).

21 February 2013

Prepared 20th May 2013