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Cumbria Chamber members hosted by Haverigg Prison for recruitment event

Cumbria Chamber’s second event in collaboration with Haverigg Prison invited Chamber members and other local businesses to the prison to explore ways of employing prisoners and ex-offenders.
Cumbria Chamber members hosted by Haverigg Prison for recruitment event

Haverigg, which is situated near Millom in South Cumbria, is a Category D prison meaning that prisoners are housed in open conditions. To qualify for Category D status, prisoners undergo a stringent review process and are required to be engaged in full-time work or training in preparation for release into communities all over the UK.

Through organising these events with HMP Haverigg, Cumbria Chamber aims to address the current labour shortage in Cumbria and give businesses the opportunity to explore alternative options for recruitment.

There’s also the wider social aim of rehabilitating prisoners and reducing reoffending rates, as evidence has shown that employment reduces the chance of reoffending among prison leavers significantly.

After check-in, attendees were given a tour of the prison, which started in the joinery and construction areas, where prisoners can earn accredited qualifications in trades including brick laying, plastering, tiling and, bathroom and kitchen fitting.

The tour then continued to the agricultural and horticultural facilities, with greenhouses growing different garden plants, trees, fruit and vegetables and a large field at the back of the prison with rows of different crops and fruit trees.

The focus on education and work is evident, with prisoners either listening to tutors or busy working in the greenhouses. As well as gaining horticultural skills, the prisoners also look after a number of animals including chickens, ducks and a small flock of Herdwick sheep.

Prisoners are also educated in maths and English and have the option of doing qualifications in cooking and leisure industry qualifications through the gym.

After the tour, attendees met with prisoners due for release or eligible for release on temporary licence (ROTL), which allows them to undertake work placements with local businesses outside the prison, after completing an extensive risk assessment and testing process.

Attendees collected CVs and inquired about skills and experience. There was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, as discussions took place about the work and education the prisoners were undertaking at Haverigg as well as their ambitions post release.

Michael Bauer of Cumbria Employment Solicitors who joined the tour and staff from the prison’s employment centre, were on hand to answer any questions the employers had, regarding HR issues, employment law, interviews and contracts.

Eve Halliday, Head of Commercial and Business Growth, at Cumbria Chamber said:

“The skills shortage in Cumbria poses a real threat to businesses and the local economy, and it’s not going to be resolved any time soon unless we get creative about how we tackle it.

Our trips to Haverigg Prison have been enlightening and educational, without a single attendee who said it was exactly what they thought it would be. Quite the opposite actually!

It’s reassuring to learn about the stringent checks and processes in place to make sure these prisoners are suitable for a Category D open prison. If there’s even a hint of concern they aren’t ready, they don’t go. It’s really is that simple.

Getting former prisoners into work is proven to reduce reoffending. Haverigg’s reoffending rate is much lower than the national average at 8%. So giving these prisoners a second chance is so important for protecting the communities they go back into.

That being said, I do understand and accept that it needs to be dealt with on a case by case basis with potential employers deciding precisely what they and their workforce are comfortable with. There is no right and wrong in that respect, but having the conversation is a starting point.

Speaking to the prisoners at Haverigg it was clear that so many want to turn their backs on crime and start working to get their lives back on track. How many times have you seen groups of 30+ candidates waiting to speak to employers, CV in hand, none of whom were forced to attend?

If hiring ex-offenders is something that you might be willing to try, please attend our next visit to Haverigg Prison. You may find a viable solution to recruitment challenges within your business. The employment team at Haverigg, along with Chamber HR advisers, are there to help you every step of the way. If it’s not for you, well at least you know and we can help you look at other options.’’

Hannah Pears from ISH said:

“Haverigg Prison showcased an obvious passion to support the men positively progress into the communities around them as active and contributing members of society. The focus is very much on skills development and enrichment activities, and you can tell the men gain a lot from the supportive and progressive environment cultivated around them. The day was so extremely informative about release on temporary licence and how employers can access skilled workers, where there are skills shortages, with full support of the prison service. This, in turn, not only delivers skilled works to the workplace but support the rehabilitations of offenders and promotes positive outcomes such as future crime reduction rates.”

Michael Bauer of Cumbria Employment Solicitors said:

“It was very interesting and certainly transformed my view of prisons and how, if things are handled sensibly, prisons can prepare people for life outside custody.”


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