Page 45 - Farm labour in the UK
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the prison leaver. Facilitating the process is therefore crucial as ‘employment is thought to be one of the biggest factors in curbing recidivism’ (Cunningham 2017: 1).
Several initiatives are already in place in the UK to assist prisoners or ex-offenders to enter the workplace on their release. All of these initiative operators felt strongly that facilitating a match between employers and prison leavers was important not simply from the perspective of social responsibility but also because they believe that if the process is conducted effectively, ex-offenders can make exceptional employees.
“If you look at reoffending as a cost to the taxpayer, it’s estimated that it’s costing the UK taxpayer eighteen billion pounds a year. It’s been proven that employment is a key factor to reduce reoffending. So, the way we look at it, is that anything we can do as a business to divert people away from committing crime, that means that our communities are safer, that means there are fewer people in prison, that means prisoner’s families aren’t impacted by people going into prison and the taxpayer saves. So it’s a win- win. The second reason we do it, and again we don’t shy away from this, is that the people that we employ with an offending background are just great colleagues and a huge asset to us” (Ex- offenders 2)
One particular business initiative working with ex- offenders trains approximately 1,000 people a year, with 200 of those going into an employed position and the rest continuing training or being supported into further education. The operator of this particular programme claims that it is important to begin the training early so that not only those who are leaving prison immediately are ‘work ready’ but also those who still have a portion of their sentence left to serve can gradually become ‘work-ready’ over time. Well- established initiatives with the experience and
structures in place to deliver high numbers moving through their programmes demonstrate that such initiatives can be hugely impactful.
Until recently, few efforts have been made to actively match ex-offenders with careers in agriculture in the UK. The ex-offender employment initiatives that already exist tend to be operated by large commercial businesses who have developed their own recruitment model, or they operate in non- agricultural industries such as construction. The government has run a variety of resettlement schemes assisting with employment, with the most current New Futures Network following on from the RSA’s Future Prison Project. The New Futures Network is an initiative set up by the Ministry of Justice which seeks to connect employers and ex- offenders across a range of industries. It acts as a broker between prisons and local and national partners in various sectors, rather than being a service provider, and is the platform best placed to connect ex-offenders with employers in the agricultural sector and related industry partners. To date, few matches have been made between farmers and ex-offenders but agriculture is included under the remit of the new scheme.
“These people have often been turned down again and again. They’re aware that they’ve got a criminal conviction. They’re aware that they’re gonna have to disclose it to employers and often they’re not gonna be even considered for employment. Now, because we don’t do that, we give them that opportunity, we give them that trust, they tend to be fiercely loyal and they don’t wanna bite the hand that feeds them” (Ex-offenders 2)
Initiative operators were unanimous in their belief that ex-offenders have the potential to be excellent employees. And according to respondents with loyalty comes honesty.
Farm labour in the UK | Accessing the workforce the industry needs

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