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Guest Blog – Turning prison space into business space

Sep 16 2015
By: Gail Stephens
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A post by Iqbal Wahhab

Founder of The Cinnamon Club and Roast restaurants

and chair of Bounce Back’s advisory board

 

The recent launch of Bounce Back’s dry lining centre training Brixton prisoners in a much needed skill by London’s hugely growing construction industry shows not just how much employers are stepping up to engage and employ prisoners on day release and then when their sentences are complete, but also shows how much more can be done in this vein.

Brixton of course also houses The Clink restaurant where inmates have been given day release opportunities at my Borough Market restaurant Roast and indeed some have gone on to secure full time employment to much success – so much so that one was recently “poached” to work at another restaurant. Annoying and satisfying at the same time.

The hospitality sector is very well skilled in complaining about the lack of skilled candidates coming forward to fill our vacancies; we’re less well skilled in attracting people to us.

My interest in prisons and engaging with ex-offenders started eight years ago when I was asked to lead a “Seeing is Believing” tour for Business in the Community to Wormwood Scrubs where I got to visit the kitchens. Inmates cooked up to 200 meals a day without ever being told that they were developing a skill. It was just a task to them.

Even dafter than that was the response I was given as to why there was so much empty space in the kitchen.

There used to be a butchery in one section but now they bought in pre-prepared meats and there used to be a bakery but now they found it easier to buy in sliced bread. I don’t know about the skills shortage issue among candle stick makers, but butchers and bakers are desperately looking for people to help grow their businesses. Every chef I know would love to have their own baking section and buy whole carcasses but London restaurant space comes at such a premium that for most it’s a luxury they cannot afford.

Relying on prison authorities to join these dots themselves is fanciful. They have their hands full with enough day-to-day issues and are facing cuts all the time. Only a few governors, like Graeme Hawkins at Isis, take pastoral care to ensure prisoners leaving them find a job and do not return as most tend to do.

I imagine there are acres of empty building space in our prisons which businesses could be putting to good use, just as happened with the dry lining centre. Bad Boy’s Bakery, also in Brixton and set up famously by Gordon Ramsay, was a good step in that direction but it was ancillary/unconnected to his core business. If restaurants could team up with butchers and bakers to become an essential part of our procurement programmes we would become committed to the process and ensure its success and longevity as it would be in our commercial interests to do so.

We could get a delivery line not just of produce we require but also of skilled people we could then put to work in our own kitchens when they were released. Bounce Back could help design and build the spaces.

And talking of spaces, watch this one for what happens next.

 

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The first 5 are through! 

Aug 11 2015
By: Gail Stephens
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Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 15.06.11The dry lining centre has been looking at bit busier than this of late and we are delighted that our first 5 participants have completed the course. What is more exciting is that they have all had in custody interviews which could lead to work using this skill upon their release which is imminent.

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We are in the logo!

Jul 28 2015
By: Gail Stephens
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Today the Cabinet Office celebrates its 300th Point of Light!

To mark the milestone of these awards that acknowledge outstanding volunteers,

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 16.27.01 they have designed this graphic. Look carefully and following her award earlier in the year Fran has made it onto the image! Top left of the 2nd zero!

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T shirt thanks to Axis

Jul 28 2015
By: Gail Stephens
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We are always grateful to a partner for taking ownership of a tangible item and the T shirts currently used in our training centre were funded and co- branded by Axis.

Furthermore director Joe Ibrahim visited the centre to deliver a truly inspirational talk to the guys who thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic illuminating morning giving them the drive to aspire to a job on release.Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 14.46.33

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The Official Opening

Jul 14 2015
By: Gail Stephens
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It was brilliant to return to the Clink Restaurant a year on for another fabulous breakfast launch party to officially open our Dry Lining Centre. The wonderful Tom Watt hosted the event and interviewed one of our long standing cohorts, Tremaine who has been through both our courses. Over 100 attendees toured both centres and heard from Val Lowman (Be Onsite) and Debbie Akehurst (Land Securities) how the vision of training to fulfill a construction industry skill shortage has become a reality with the opening of our centre.

We are delighted that the centre is doing so well so soon as this

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 15.49.23 Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 12.14.05is an exciting progression in line with our objective of effectively training offenders with skills that are relevant for positioning them well for entry into the construction industry workforce on release.

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Our Dry Lining Centre in HMP Brixton

May 18 2015
By: Gail Stephens
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Our new Dry Lining Training Course has now commenced in HMP Brixton with participants embarking upon the introduction and theory side pending final completion of the bespoke training centre.

This is the first time a Dry LScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 11.38.56ining course will run in a London prison in part due to the practical logistics of transporting the vast amounts of materials required and also the cost. Thanks to some phenomenal support from Knauff and Encon and others featured here it has become possible for us to open the centre and offer inmates of Brixton the opportunity to learn this sought after skill.

The programme is targeted to train 70 participants per academic year and offers those referred whilst in custody the opportunity to participate in the CITB C Skills course in Dry Lining to Diploma Level 2.  Having gained a construction skills qualification whilst in custody, cohorts are well positioned to enter the construction industry work force immediately upon release. This is a major step in bridging the gap from prison to employment as we are further supported by construction industry partners.

 

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Our holistic approach in operation

Mar 02 2015
By: Gail Stephens
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Congratulations to Tremaine on his job appointment with Measom.     Tremaine went through our training course in July of last year in HMP Brixton and went on to work with us whilst on ROTL.  In conjunction with ourselves and our partners Land Securities and BeOnSite he has steadily progressed whilst working on sites and has recently completed the SBWA (Sector Based Work Academy) at City of Westminster College.  We are delighted that his dedication has been rewarded and he is a wonderful example of a participant really maximising the opportunities from start to finish that we offer. From training in custody, he then went through the voluntary work process, worked with us and our partners on some big sites as a ROTL team member, received further training to gain extra qualifications to ultimately achieve a job opportunity with a major construction group.

It is fantastic to see such examples of our complete offering being  fully utilised. We really wish him all the best.

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“Points of Light” award presented to Francesca

Feb 10 2015
By: Gail Stephens
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We are delighted that Francesca has been named a Point of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Points of Light awards recognise outstanding people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. The Prime Minister makes daily announcements of the winners to celebrate their achievements, encourage and promote volunteering and the value that it brings to the country.

“Through Bounce Back, Fran has tackled the very serious problem of re-offending with impressive results. The skills and training she provides has given over 400 people a chance to turn their lives around and attracted support from partners including the Ministry of Justice, Comic Relief and Alliance Boots. I’m pleased to make Fran a Point of Light today.”

(Rt Hon David Cameron MP Prime Minister). 

“Bounce Back has grown to become an enormously popular route to rehabilitation with over 500 referrals a year.  By offering real jobs they act as a valuable bridge and support people from prison into employment. Bounce Back courses also include voluntary work experience in the community and NVQ qualifications in Painting and Decorating.

Weldeab, an original member of the first ex-offender team from HMP Wandsworth in 2010 –  now a trainer in the Bounce Back centre in HMP Brixton – said: “Bounce Back has changed my life, thanks to them I have grown from a painter and decorator to a senior trainer in the centre in HMP Brixton.“It has helped me to stay away from crime and given me and my family real hope for a positive future.”

Fran Findlater said: “I’m delighted to receive this Point of Light award. It’s a wonderful recognition of the dedication and hard work of the entire Bounce Back team. “Our straightforward aim is to help as many ex-offenders as possible get their lives back onto a crime free track and reduce the burden of re-offending on society.””

 

 

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Another great job with Boots

Jan 26 2015
By: Gail Stephens
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Probably our best ever before and after image… Boots, Liverpool Street Extensionphoto[1]

We are so grateful that contractor JM Scully have actively engaged with us to integrate our    painters into their workforce since our presentation last year at their Reducing Re-offending Taskforce Meeting.

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Liverpool St Station is the third store we have decorated with them following on from Kensington High St and Twickenham. One of our guys single handedly carried out and completed all of the decorations working through the night for 5 nights alongside all of the other trades.

We look forward to working again on upcoming projects in and around the London area.

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Working with Paint 360 to help the environment

Jan 26 2015
By: Gail Stephens
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We have partnered Paint 360 to add to our offering and work together towards delivering sustainable solutions to the work we do. Paint 360 re-engineer waste water based paint back into high quality emulsions for the trade. They are so passionate about what they do that they commissioned Carbon Footprints Ltd to undertake a verification of emissions calculation for their recycling. Confirmed calculations state that using 1,000 litres of Paint 360’s product saves 1.3 tonnes of CO2e which is equivalent to approx. 4,000 miles driven in an average van!

We are really pleased we can do our bit. Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.18.39

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  • “Bounce Back is, above all, about its people. What is known is that a job and income on release is fundamental to success in coping with day to day life and preventing re-offending. Our drive to change perception in employers and clients is reaping rewards and our professional team is working around London and the Home Counties.

    The mutual trust and respect at the core of our values reflects the growing belief in giving social enterprises and socially disadvantaged people an opportunity to succeed and thrive. We are just one stage in this development, the determination of our participants to start a new life and move on is a formidable ingredient in the recipe for success."

    Francesca Findlater, Founder/Chairman

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