Bristol businesses urged to give ex-offenders the chance to turn around their lives through work

June 28, 2024

Crime prevention charity is challenging Bristol firms to employ ex-offenders following an event that gave a rare chance for businesses leaders to engage with a group of young men with criminal records.

Key4Life brought together 25-plus senior managers from across the city for the gathering at ethical bank Triodos UK’s Bristol head office.

Firms attending the event included engineering consultancy AtkinsRéalis, recruitment group Hays, catering equipment supplier Nisbets, restaurant chain Wagamama, utility Wessex Water and construction firms Lancer Scott and RG Group.

They performed a series of mock interviews with 15 ex-offenders currently enrolled on Key4Life’s six-month rehabilitation programme, including prolific criminals who had been in and out of prison since their early teens.

Smartly suited and booted and carrying their CVs, the men were eager for change in their lives and determined to make the most of this precious opportunity to interface with employers.

Key4Life CEO Eva Hamilton MBE, pictured with attendees at the event, founded the charity in 2012 in response to the previous year’s London riots.

She said: “A staggering 12m people have a criminal record in Britain, representative of a huge pool of untapped talent, largely overlooked by society.

“Research shows that 50% of UK employers would not employ an ex-offender, and for far too many companies, inviting job applications from men with convictions is purely a tick box exercise.

“In Key4Life’s 12 years of rehabilitating ex-offenders we have been continuously shown that meaningful employment is the absolute gamechanger, giving our young men the stability, self-respect and sense of purpose they need to stay away from crime.

“We need to see businesses really step up now and give ex-offenders another chance.” 

Zoe Joyner, community & engagement manager at Nisbets, which has previously employed ex-offenders and has been involved with Key4Life for 10 years, said: “The men were fantastic, well prepared and ready for work.

“These events are an important opportunity for employers to meet face-to-face with these young men and see that they are just normal human beings who deserve a second chance. It’s our responsibility to put them on a right path.”

At least 65% of Key4Life programme’s graduates are gainfully employed within a year of release  – against a government rate of 16% – and the charity’s reoffending rate is a maximum of 7% compared to a government figure of 64%.

Robert, one of the young men taking part in Key4Life programme who was recently released from prison, described the event as amazing.

He said: “I’ve done some good interviews, had some great feedback and hopefully one of the companies will take me on. Thank you Key4Life for helping me onto a positive path.”

Danny, a fellow participant and former convict who wants to be a restaurant chef, added: “It’s been inspirational.

“There were so many companies willing to give ex-offenders chances, when normally there’s always no chance for men like me coming out of prison. It’s like a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Eva Hamilton MBE added: “I urge many more companies in Bristol and South West to join this vital movement for corporate social change and offer jobs and Work Tasters to men with convictions.”

For more information about Key4Life and to find out Bristol businesses how to help drive social change by giving young ex-offenders another chance, visit:

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