'Ex-offenders can help boost Lancashire economy'

Preston prison: Should inmates be helped into work?Preston prison: Should inmates be helped into work?
Preston prison: Should inmates be helped into work?
Business chiefs have said ex-offenders could make a vital contribution to Lancashire's economy.

Justice Secretary David Gauke has unveiled plans that could see more inmates let out temporarily to go to work to improve their job prospects after release.

Ministers are also considering offering National Insurance “holidays” to businesses which hire individuals who have served their sentences.

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And a scheme to recruit them directly into the Civil Service is being drawn up.

Preston-based Recycling Lives already offers training and employment opportunities for offenders, last year saving the UK taxpayer £2.7m by reducing reoffending rates.

Working in nine prisons across the UK with more than 200 men and women, its HMP Academies programme offers opportunities for offenders to develop skills while undertaking recycling and fabrication work and earning an enhanced wage.

The firm says that of the more than 175 men and women released from Recycling Lives programmes since 2015, just four have reoffended.

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Alasdair Jackson, CSR & Sustainability Director for Recycling Lives, said: “Along with many other socially-minded companies, Recycling Lives recognised years ago that by creating better employment opportunities for ex-offenders, millions of pounds can be saved.

“These savings can then be put to other uses, such as improving the NHS.

“We would welcome the opportunity to show Mr Guake and his colleagues our work.”

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “Of course there are risks but what business doesn’t take a risk?

“Not only does this help the individual concerned but it can also have an impact in reducing crime in the community. Having a good job can be a great reason to not reoffend.”