RAPt (the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust) and Blue Sky today announced that they have merged, forming a union to tackle the interconnected problems of addiction, crime and re-offending. Through the merger, RAPt becomes the sole company member of Blue Sky, which will remain a separate legal entity. The merger will see the two charities grow the number of employment opportunities they create for ex-offenders and people in recovery from addiction.
RAPt works with people with drug and alcohol dependence so they can lead positive lives free from addiction and crime. The charity runs rehabilitation programmes in 25 prisons in England and, with additional community-based recovery support services, RAPt reaches over 20,000 people every year.
Blue Sky was founded in 2005 with the sole aim of creating jobs for people coming out of jail. Since then it has employed and helped to resettle over 1,000 ex-offenders – roughly the population of a large prison – and the re-offending rate of Blue Sky employees is just 15%, a quarter of the national average.
By merging, the two organisations add considerable value to their separate interventions and strengthen the services available to those trapped in the cycle of addiction, crime and prison. Their programmes don’t just transform individual lives, families and communities but also save huge amounts of tax-payers’ money:
- Re-offending costs the UK £13 billion each year.
- England and Wales release 90,000 prisoners per annum: 60% re-offend within two years, the second highest re-offending rate in Europe.
- Having a job reduces the probability of re-offending by up to 50% yet it is eight times more difficult for someone with a criminal record to get a job than for someone without.
- 64% of prisoners report having used drugs in the four weeks before custody, and re-offending is highest amongst released prisoners with untreated drug or alcohol problems.
Mike Trace, RAPt CEO, says “Three factors informed this ground-breaking merger. First, drug and alcohol abuse is the greatest driver of crime in the UK. Second, having a stable job reduces the probability of re-offending by up to 50%. Finally, the best rehabilitation takes place both sides of the prison gate: Blue Sky and RAPt each have highly-targeted and evidence-based models for helping offenders and, by working together, we are creating something wholly unique that can generate even stronger results.”
Mick May, Blue Sky CEO, says “Our vision is to create a pathway of hope and purpose for offenders so they can move away from a life in and out of custody to a fulfilling life in the community. This merger is driven by strategic thinking rather than financial need – a rare occurrence in the social sector – and will produce a unique offering: no other organisation offers this continuum of support, from in-prison care for addicts, to resettlement support through the prison gate and into a proper paid job with a proper company on the outside.”
Mick (a former City trader) set up Blue Sky after meeting Steve Finn (a former bank robber) who told him how difficult it was to find a job with a criminal record. With Steve (now a senior manager at Blue Sky) as his first recruit, Mick set off on a journey that has seen Blue Sky grow to create jobs for ex-offenders in both public and private sectors, including companies such as Virgin Active, River Island, Nabarro and Deloitte. Blue Sky has won numerous awards including a UK Social Enterprise Award in 2013, and was also No. 10’s Social Action Partner in 2011 where David Cameron quipped: “it’s the only company in the country where you need a criminal record to work there”.
With the merger as his latest achievement Mick is taking the opportunity to step down as CEO from Blue Sky with effect from Christmas 2014. In 2013 he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. Both Blue Sky and RAPt will retain the benefits of his experience, expertise and many friendships on a non-executive basis. He will also pursue other charitable activities.