New rules on day release will encourage employers to work with offenders

Business groups welcome move but call for ‘more ambitious’ plans to integrate former prisoners into the workplace

The government has announced plans to relax prison day-release rules in a bid to create more opportunities for offenders to train with employers while serving their sentences.

New rules will grant prison governors more autonomy to offer prisoners release on temporary licence to spend time working in the community and with employers. Those who pass a risk assessment will be immediately eligible for paid work.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has also announced an expansion of its work placement scheme, the New Futures Network, which aims to fill local skills gaps by providing jobs to offenders on release.

Snack chain Pret (pictured) and hospitality firm Greene King are among those to have signed up to the scheme.

The changes were welcomed by Business in the Community (BITC), but it said it should be a precursor to a “more ambitious” programme of reducing reoffending through employment.

“Release on temporary licence has been shown to reduce reoffending and the employers we work with see it as crucial for ex-offenders moving into employment on release,” said Jessica Rose, campaign manager at BITC.

“It enables prisoners to gain confidence interacting in the work environment and enables employers to give potential future employees a chance.

“With hundreds of employers now offering direct employment to people with criminal convictions and opening up their mainstream recruitment channels to ex-offenders through [advocacy campaign] Ban the Box, we believe these changes must pave the way for a more ambitious approach to reducing reoffending through employment,” Rose added.

David Gauke, justice secretary, said broadening access to training and employment opportunities was a vital part of the government’s strategy to prevent reoffending.

“Many organisations are recognising the value of giving offenders a second chance, and we have carefully listened to their feedback before making these changes,” he said. “I urge more businesses to join this movement and help ex-offenders turn their backs on crime for good.”

The announcement coincides with the release of a survey from YouGov that found 81 per cent of employers said employing ex-offenders helped their business, and two-thirds would recommend other employers to follow suit.