Norwich business leaders hear benefits of prison project

Business leaders from Norwich and Norfolk have been given the chance to see for themselves how working with prisoners and other hard-to-reach groups could benefit their company and the wider community.

Chapelfield shopping centre, which has been working with Norwich Prison to give offenders the opportunity to learn vital skills and work experience, hosted an Open Doors event to show how businesses can cut costs, gain staff and reduce re-offending rates.

The event was organised by Business in the Community's (BITC) The Right Step project, which aims to reduce re-offending by improving the relationship between employers and the prison and probation service.

More than 50 people from companies, including NORSE group and House of Fraser, attended to hear how they could be missing out by overlooking the talents of people from groups they do not normally recruit from.

Mike Brophy, regional director of The Right Step project explained how the project worked before showing a video featuring business, including EDF Energy and The Adam and Eve Pub in Norwich, who benefited from working with ex-offenders.

The video also focused on the individuals themselves and how businesses involved in the project had helped them to turn their life around.

Mr Brophy said: 'We wanted to show employers the businesses case of getting involved in The Right Step project: From cutting costs of recruitment and gaining skilled workers, to the development of current staff and helping people to change their lives. Having strong social values can build business value.

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'We recognise that businesses may have concerns about working with ex-offenders. This is why we hosted the event, to help address any issues and to give people the chance to talk directly to businesses, the prison, probation and individuals who have already benefited.'

BITC encourages businesses to get involved in The Right Step project, which is funded by the European Social Fund and The Home Office, by taking small steps which could have a big impact on the wider community.

Mr Brophy added: 'Having a job is one of the key factors in reducing the likelihood of re-offending. Improving skills, providing support and offering employment is crucial to successful rehabilitation.'

Davina Tanner, general manager at Chapelfield, told business leaders she was delighted to have been involved in the project which had helped more than 30 serving prisoners at the shopping centre.

She said: 'It's all about giving people a second chance. Even if you are a small business which can only work with one ex-offender you can make a huge impact on that person's life. This is extremely powerful both for a business as a whole and to the individuals involved.'

? For more information about getting involved with The Right Step project visit the website at: or call 01638 663272.

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