Why Blue Sky Inside is important:
Women prisoners have particular challenges: 50% of women prisoners report having experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse; they are five times as likely to self-harm in prison; and 80% have a diagnosed mental health problem. That’s why Blue Sky Inside was set up in 2012. It provides women who are currently in prison with real jobs and qualifications to help build their skills, confidence and employability in preparation for release.
A total of 150 women have been employed to date. The women who have worked at Blue Sky Inside are three times as likely to find work or volunteer opportunities when they leave prison compared to the national average.
We create a real work environment for women: they must apply, be interviewed and undergo a probationary period. We also provide access to complete QCF Levels 1 & 2 in Fashion Techniques, plus softer skills training – NCFE problem solving and team building. Since April 2015, 71 qualifications have been completed. On release the women can also access grants to support their resettlement and support from a mentor.
The National Offenders Management Service (NOMS) sets minimum guidelines of what prisoners should be paid for purposeful activity. Prisoners working at Blue Sky Inside are paid more than the national average.
What do women say about working at Blue Sky Inside?
“Every prison should have a workshop like Stitch in Time [Blue Sky Inside] because it helps you work in a team and learn new and different skills and gets you work ready. I am over the moon, it is the best thing that has happened since I have been in prison, it has saved me.” JT
“I learnt so much more about sewing which I didn’t think I could do, it has given me hope for the future for starting up my own business making children’s clothes. It has given me the techniques and ability to be able to use in my future endeavours.” TS
“I have gained two more qualifications at Level 1 and Level 2 and hopefully I can achieve a Level 3 qualification on release as well as start my own business which I will receive help from Blue Sky with. When I leave this prison I have got hope and new skills which will keep me out of trouble and I have said to myself that I will never come back to prison again.” TS
“For me, because I haven’t worked in a team for a long time it enables you to prepare to work outside and be surrounded by a group of women all working together, it has opened my eyes to how difficult it can be to work with just women.” JT
“I have loved every minute of working in the Stitch in Time workshop [Blue Sky Inside] and wish I had come into the workshop earlier in my sentence, and I am very grateful for having the opportunity to use this workshop to build on my skills and self-confidence. The staff in the workshop are truly inspirational and I will owe my future progress to them.” TS
What do our commercial partners and funders say about Blue Sky Inside?
This is an important philanthropic project for our commercial partners. They are critical to us helping women make positive changes in their lives. Without these contracts that provide work and skills development, we would not be able to help them to prepare for release.
Anya Hindmarch is a Patron of Blue Sky and a founding commercial partner of Blue Sky Inside: “We are incredibly proud to support this project. A small amount of our protective cotton packaging is produced by Blue Sky Inside. Sourcing this way costs us more money, however we see the project making a real difference to women trying to get their lives back on track. We feel this is ‘women supporting women’ and encourage other companies to participate in schemes which promote better outcomes for offenders.”
ET Games has worked with Blue Sky Inside since 2013. A spokesperson said: “We are convinced that giving prisoners the opportunity to do productive work is valuable both for them – as it upholds their dignity as productive members of society – and also for the rest of us – since it reduces the chances of reoffending. We believe it’s crucial for the justice system to have a redemptive side – and we’re proud to be contributing to that through working with Blue Sky.