Young Blue Sky Friends cross the finish line

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Oliver Jones aged 23 and his younger half-brother Jack Chaplin 21 have completed the 41th edition of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon last Sunday.  Both young men pushed their boundaries by trying this new run and managed to raise a large sum of over £9,682.49 for Blue Sky.

“I definitely hit the ‘runner’s wall’ but we just kept pushing ourselves because we really believe in what Blue Sky does.” Jack

Oliver heard about Blue Sky through a friend who talked about the work to assist ex-offenders to have a second chance in life. After discussing it with Jack both felt they wanted to take on this challenge on behalf of the ex-offenders who struggle to find work.


“It’s really inspirational when individuals like Jack and Oliver give so much of themselves to support a social enterprise like Blue Sky.  This kind of concern and support for the welfare of others is crucial in our work.  Providing jobs for ex-offenders who often face discrimination when seeking employment can be de-moralising. Having individuals share our vision to provide ex-offenders with opportunities is crucial. ” Blue Sky’s MD Kate Markey

Everyone at Blue Sky team would like to congratulate Jack and Oliver on completing the marathon and say thank you for raising funds for the work we do to support ex-offenders into work.  And we would like to thank all our supporters who share Jack and Oliver’s passion and belief in the value of our work.

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Bringing Lasting Change: RAPt & Blue Sky Colleague Conference

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In September and October staff from RAPt and Blue Sky attended events to celebrate the collective achievements of our charities to date.  And to look forward to the future by presenting and discussing our new three-year business plan strategy and the integral role of staff in delivering its aims and objectives.

The conferences included a Q & A session with the senior management team, a speed dating market stall session to help staff learn about different areas of the organisation, and six interactive workshops. We also heard from our beneficiaries and their personal stories of lasting change. As one Blue Sky team member stated:

“The highlight of the day was the RAPt clients, who were brave enough to share their journey to recovery. Hearing their personal challenges really reminds us why we work so hard: it’s to ensure we put our clients at the heart of what we do. Listening to their personal story today has inspired me to keep working towards this common goal.”

Awards were presented to staff and Blue Sky is particularly proud to announce that Minta Sakaria, our HR Manager (pictured below, right, with Mike Trace, RAPt CEO) was nominated as a ‘courageous individual: someone who goes that extra mile to support those around them’:


Staff were also treated to a guest speaker on each day. Ben Hunt-Davis MBE spoke about his experience winning an Olympic gold medal in the rowing, focusing on how his team constantly thought about how they could “make the boat go faster” by working on a common goal. A week on from the conference and “does this make the boat go faster?” has become a stock question in the Blue Sky office to challenge our decision-making.

We were also lucky to have Gary Prout, an Invitcus games gold medallist, speak about his harrowing experiences as a soldier, his painful recovery from his injury and perseverance to go to the Para Olympics as captain of the archery team, providing huge inspiration for delegates:

 “When the Para Olympian Gary spoke about losing his friend and the repeated challenges he faced it put so much into perspective. It shows that as a team sometimes you just have to push through those difficult times, work together and think of new ways to break through barriers.” Blue Sky employee

The day as a whole was a hugely rewarding experience for Blue Sky staff, particularly in making new connections with RAPt colleagues with whom we are working ever closer to create life-changing opportunities for our beneficiaries.

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Young Friends of Blue Sky take on new challenge to raise money to support ex-offenders

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Oliver Jones aged 23 and his younger half-brother Jack Chaplin 21 are completing an ambitious and challenging marathon. Whilst Jack has completed a half marathon in Sydney, Oliver has never run a marathon before. However, they both felt ready for a new personal challenge. Oliver says the training is not proving easy but raising money for Blue Sky is well worth the effort.

The 41st edition of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon will take place on 16th October 2016. The TCS Amsterdam Marathon is known for its fast and beautiful course. The start is in the historical Olympic Stadium. The course leads the participants through Amsterdam’s city centre and passes many highlights including the Rijksmuseum (containing art by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh), the largest public park in Amsterdam Vondelpark and the Amstel River.

Marathon Run

Oliver heard about Blue Sky through a friend who talked about the work to assist ex-offenders to have a second chance in life. Oliver then looked into Blue Sky’s work further, investigating its history as a social enterprise.  He researched the statistics on support and rehabilitation for ex-offenders and was shocked that there are not more organisations like Blue Sky. After discussing it with Jack, both felt they wanted to take on this challenge on behalf of the ex-offenders who struggle to find work. Both felt that ex-offenders who endeavor to turn their lives around are “commendable and an inspiration”

Jack, aged 21.

“Neither of us have been directly affected by a family member going to prison, but I have a friend whose brother struggled on being released, having been very happy and driven before going in. The most appealing aspect is probably the idea of getting a second chance, particularly for young people.”

Oliver, aged 23

“It’s really inspirational when individuals like Jack and Oliver give so much of themselves to support a social enterprise like Blue Sky.  This kind of concern and support for the welfare of others is crucial in our work.  Providing jobs for ex-offenders who often face discrimination when seeking employment can be de-moralising. Having individuals share our vision to provide ex-offenders with opportunities is crucial. ”

Blue Sky’s MD Kate Markey

Everyone at Blue Sky team would like to wish Jack and Oliver the very best of luck with their marathon run. And we would like to thank all our supporters who share Jack and Oliver’s passion and belief in the value of our work.

To help Oliver and Jack raise money for Blue Sky please click here  to donate

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Kate’s Blog: The only thing that’s constant is change

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If the unpredictable events of the last month have proved anything, it is that few things in life are constant. Including the rehabilitation of offenders.

Whilst there’s still much uncertainty on how the prison reforms announced in June will play out (including perhaps the Ministerial position by the time this blog comes out) here and in true Blue Sky spirit, we are busy trying to capitalise on the changes.

Most notably, our decision to start training in prison earlier this year has positioned us well. Serving prisoners are responding really well to our vocational training courses, currently in HMP Scrubs and Belmarsh but soon to move into other London prisons too. We hope the sessions reflect the kind of reforms the Ministry of Justice wants to see: Practical (recognising the challenge for some serving prisoners to learn in a traditional classroom setting); Job focused (giving real information about the industries we operate in); Peer-led (featuring people with lived experience).

We have a real vision of where this work could take us on our mission to be the single biggest employer of ex-offenders. Delivering industry training in prisons helps us find new recruits but also delivers work-ready people to our clients. Because of course, achieving our vision cannot be an individual endeavour. Creating real sustainable and systemic change – particularly within a criminal justice system – takes true collaboration and partnership. We don’t have all the answers, nor the resources, but we can, together with others, change the way prisoners are rehabilitated through training and how ex-offenders re-enter the workplace and become economically-active and engaged members of our communities.

Most importantly in such times of change, our challenge is to remain constant to the people we serve, our ex-offender employees. Constantly rewarding, invariably unpredictable and rarely the same. Somehow through all of this, our support and our values are, and must remain, constant to them.


Kate Markey, Managing Director

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Q&A with Lee Kelly, Blue Sky Employee

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“Blue Sky give us ex-cons a chance, where a lot of other companies do not consider us.”

Lee Kelly Cropped Picture

  1. Can you tell me a little bit about your past, what lead to you being in prison, if you did? Had you been inside before?

I first went to prison when I was 15 years old and was in and out of prison for years.

  1. What happened when you came out? What was it like to try and find work?

Not many companies like to take ex-offenders on, so it was quite hard to get a job.

  1. How did you hear about Blue Sky?

I heard about Blue Sky over the years from mates who worked there themselves and I applied online.

  1. Why did you want to come and work for Blue Sky?

It’s a job that has helped me move forward in life.

  1. What was it like to start work with Blue Sky? 

I found working with Blue Sky okay, because everyone seemed accepting and I worked hard.

  1. What is the main support you’ve got from Blue Sky (i.e. specific training, housing support, mentoring by supervisor, help to get into a full-time job?)

Blue Sky has helped me in a few different ways.They supported me to obtain my CSCS health and safety test. They also supported me with my driving license and when I failed this by two points  they encouraged me to try again: I am still trying.

  1. What difference did Blue Sky make?

This job has kept me out of trouble and I enjoy working, it gives me a sense of satisfaction.

  1. Describe your experience of working for our partner organisation.

I work at Hillingdon council on the street cleansing team, we pick up the rubbish tipped all over Hillingdon. We do a good job and make the community tidier.

  1. Has your life changed and if so what has contributed to this? What are you doing now ?

My life has changed as I have kept out of trouble and I look forward to the future moving forward. I can even plan ahead and think about holidays now.

  1. What are your plans for the future?

I would like to start my own gardening and fencing business in a few years. I’m training myself up, saving and working on this. It’s good to feel I can now plan for the future.

“I would recommend Blue Sky, they helped me and would help others, it’s great and I have       enjoyed my time here.”

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Driven to Succeed: Ex Blue Sky Employee Starts own Business

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Shyam Patel face shot

Shyam was a young man when he went into prison, so he never had a real job. When he was released after his most recent conviction, Shyam was determined to turn his life around. But he found it very hard to get work despite having had lots of interviews. “All of them refused me, because of my criminal record. When I saw that Blue Sky only employ ex-offenders it felt like my last chance, so I was excited to take it.”

Shyam worked for Blue Sky as a grounds maintenance operative for 4 months, enough time to get him on his feet, start earning an income and planning for the future.  Shyam explained that because he had not worked before, his role with Blue Sky helped to teach him about the structure and commitment needed to sustain employment.

Shyam’s life is very different now, he runs his own independent business, a commercial and domestic maintenance service called Enviro. Shyam has a strong work ethic and his main focus is to try to deliver a quality trustworthy service.

Shyam explains that without the opportunity to work and prove himself, he may not be in this position now. Shyam’s success should be attributed to his hard work: “I work every day, often I work at the weekends and whenever I am offered a job, I take it. I am driven to succeed. With Blue Sky’s help I managed to work hard and save up to fund my own business.” Shyam now has positive plans for the future and intends to expand his business in the next 9 months.

“Models like Blue Sky help individuals like me, it gave me an opportunity to invest in myself.” Shyam explained that it is hard at the beginning and he did want to give up, his advice to all new Blue Sky employees is: “Keep going, save money and invest in the future.”

Enviro Maintenance Services

Enviro Mobile: 07341 813999


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Fashion Show at the Old Bailey

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Fashion Show at the Old Bailey

The famous Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly identified as the Old Bailey, is known for the sentencing of criminal cases. But on 15th June, the stately venue was the splendid back-drop for a fundraiser fashion show to help give former offenders a second chance in life.

The award-winning charity Blue Sky partnered with another charity, the Sheriff’s and Recorder’s Fund, to host the fashion show which included clothes designed and produced by serving women prisoners.  The event was also attended by The Lord Mayor, Alderman Mountevans of the City of London, and the Lady Mayoress.

The fashion show included summer dresses for the Ascot season, casual wear, a range of bustiers designed by serving prisoners (used as part of the City and Guilds level 2 coursework) and evening dresses. The black corset top with hooped underskirt and silk ruffles, which took 40 hours to make, stole the show to much applause from the 200-strong audience in the finale.

Black Dress Fashion Show

“Between them, The Sheriffs’ and Recorder’s Fund and Blue Sky provide essential grants, training, jobs and support, so the money raised during the course of this special evening will help get many people’s lives back on track” said on the night by Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, the Recorder of London and the Old Bailey’s most senior permanent judge

Some of the clothes were designed and produced by women prisoners at Stitch in Time, Blue Sky’s project at HMP / YOI Bronzefield – including the outfit worn by the Lady Mayoress of the City of London who joined the catwalk.

Lady Mayoress


Like all of Blue Sky’s projects, Stitch in Time demonstrates the importance of work in helping the rehabilitation of offenders. Karen Pau, Senior Leader of Art & Design at New College Swindon delivered over 8 sessions with the ladies in the Stitch in Time workshop. Karen said that working with Stitch in Time was “one of the most rewarding teaching experiences in my 24-year career” and that the ladies exceeded her expectations with the quality of their work by gaining an extra 13 qualifications between them.  Their work was also supported by designer Sue Bonham whose designs were also featured on the night.

This was the final fundraiser show featuring work from Stitch in Time as the workshop closed at the end of May this year due to changes within the women’s prison estate. From 2012, Stitch in Time employed 166 serving women and of the 71 eligible to work, 18 moved into paid employment and 5 into voluntary work.

“It was an honour to work in the Stitch in Time workshop and I was in awe of the quality of work and dedication the ladies demonstrated. I’m very proud of the work they have achieved and their commitment to the project. The workshop is a shining example to Blue Sky’s mission to train prisoners, with the hope of them gaining employment upon release,” said Allison Harbour, Training Manager at Blue Sky.

Allison’s words are echoed by those of the women who have worked in Stitch in Time. One said: “It has been amazing to work in Stitch and Time, The experience helped me gain employment upon release. Something I’ve never had leaving jail previously.”

Others said: “Working for Stitch in Time has given me a confidence boost. It’s made me realise I can adapt in a work environment” and “To have been part of Stitch in Time and Blue Sky has been a light for me in the darkest time in my life. Thank you.”

Building on our track record Blue Sky is creating more jobs for ex-offenders every year by developing links with new potential employers and industry sectors across London, Thames Valley and the South East. In addition we are developing training in prisons to identify and recruit potential employees with the skills to start work on release.

Since 2005, Blue Sky has employed and supported over 1,400 ex-offenders and serving prisoners.

“As a trusted intermediary for both our commercial clients and ex-offenders looking for work, Blue Sky has an ambition to grow our work and help demonstrate how people with criminal pasts can contribute to society. The criminal justice system faces unprecedented challenges and changes and we are working hard to respond to those and increase our impact,” said Kate Markey, MD at Blue Sky.

Blue Sky’s work has proven by the Ministry of Justice’s Data Lab to reduce re-offending by up to 23%, one of the most effective rehabilitation interventions on record. Blue Sky runs training workshops to recruit potential employees for Blue Sky’s jobs on the outside, work that is closely aligned to the recently announced prison reforms. Blue Sky employs between 150 – 200 ex-offenders into real jobs in the community every year.

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Blue Sky Welcomes Prison Reform Announcements

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Blue Sky Welcomes Prison Reform Announcements

Blue Sky, the award-winning organisation that only employs ex-offenders welcomes the prison reform announcements, including the Dame Sally Coates Review into prison education.

The charity which uses real jobs to break the cycle of re-offending employs between 150 – 200 ex-offenders every year.

Kate Markey, Managing Director of Blue Sky, said: “The underlying message of the reforms demonstrates how critical employment is to reducing the risk of re-offending. Preparing for a crime-free life on the outside means starting the work-ready journey on the inside. And the most appropriate people to make the decision on how best their serving prisoners can be rehabilitated is the governor of their prison.

“The education reforms illustrate that one-size education doesn’t fit all. Offenders, like everyone, have different learning needs and motivations. Vocational training which helps releasing prisoners see the employment pathway to the outside is critical to their motivation to lead crime-free lives. We hope the reforms mean a variety of providers that offer different learning opportunities that can demonstrate a reduction in re-offending and jobs on the outside.”

Getting prisoners who are being released – and ex-offenders who are already released – to be economically-active is an important means of establishing a normal life. Blue Sky provides entry-level jobs in industries such as warehousing, grounds maintenance, waste and recycling. Blue Sky jobs are the first step back to employment. People can start on a Monday and have a wage packet on Friday, helping them to become role models for their families as well as establishing routine, personal accountability and building different social networks.

Blue Sky has worked with over 1200 ex-offenders since 2005, and holds one of the highest score recorded by the Ministry of Justice for reducing re-offending.

Kate Markey, Managing Director for Blue Sky is available for interview.
Contact: 01895 839 848




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Blue Sky wins tenth major award in ten years

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BCAWARD LogoBlue Sky is proud to win the Third Sector Business Charity Award for its partnership with Veolia, its tenth major award in ten years.                                                                                    

The award presented last night at the Hilton London Bankside acknowledges a partnership between Blue Sky, a social enterprise that reduces re-offending through employment, and Veolia, an environmental services provider, helping ex-offenders to lead crime-free, purposeful lives by offering a first step on the employment ladder.

The partnership has now employed over 220 ex-offenders in 6 years as part of Veolia’s local authority contracts in Basildon, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Dover, Ealing, Haringey, Kingston, Lambeth, Richmond, Rushmore, Watford and Westminster. Only 7% of those employed have re-offended, eight times less than the national average.

Picture1Kate Markey, Blue Sky MD said: “This award is testimony to the hard work and dedication of Veolia’s local contract managers and Blue Sky’s frontline staff working together to make every opportunity count for ex-offenders. And it shows the vision and values of Veolia’s leadership in working with a social enterprise such as Blue Sky as part of it supply chain. We look forward to building on our partnership with Veolia in new locations and in new sectors, creating even more opportunity for ex-offenders.”

Established in 2005, Blue Sky is “the only company in the country where you need a criminal record to work there” (PM David Cameron). Having a job reduces re-offending by up to 50% yet 75% of prisoners are released to unemployment. Blue Sky creates job opportunities by offering companies an alternative to high-street labour agencies within their supply chains in sectors such as grounds maintenance, waste management and distribution. Contracted by companies to supply labour, Blue Sky employs ex-offenders for 6-months, provides training, and brokers onward jobs. Blue Sky employs up to 200 ex-offenders every year. Over 40% of those employed by Blue Sky move on to permanent jobs elsewhere, many with commercial clients such as Veolia.

Robert Hunt, Executive Director of Business Development at Veolia said: “Veolia is proud to support Blue Sky and the fantastic work it does. We are touched by this award and the recognition for our work alongside Blue Sky to get people into the world of work. The important thing is to carry on engaging with ex-offenders to give them a second chance and help with their future careers.”

Veolia is the UK leader in environmental solutions, providing waste, water and energy management services. It won the Queen’s Award for Innovation in Sustainable Development in 2014 and was praised for its community initiatives including the Blue Sky partnership.Veolia employs c14, 000 people and has committed to recruiting 10% of new employees from marginalised groups which include ex-offenders. This represents a major commitment from the company.

Tristan Quote



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Blue Sky submits evidence to inquiry on needs of ex-offenders

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Blue Sky recently conducted a survey of its ex-offender employees to inform an inquiry into the benefits and employment support available to offenders when they leave prison, to ease the transition into work and a return to normal life.

Ex-offenders face a number of barriers to work on leaving prison, but inability to find paid work can have all kinds of knock-on effects including becoming homeless.  Joint research by the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Work and Pensions shows that ex-prisoners who gain formal employment on release are less likely to re-offend than similar prisoners who do not find work.

Yet their research also showed that less than a third (29%) of prisoners had been in paid employment at some point during the first two years after their release from prison, with only 15% identified as working at the two year mark. The Committee has invited evidence from ex-offenders, to enable it to assess the support available to individuals when they leave prison, and recommend improvements to policy that will help ex-offenders reintegrate into society effectively.

Here are some highlights from the responses we received:

“On release the bloke in my local job centre was very good – he told me about Blue Sky and suggested I look it up on the internet. The Blue Sky website is really good and I sent my CV online. Not long afterwards I was given an interview and started work gardening a few days later. I am very impressed with the service Blue Sky offer. I was finding it almost impossible to get a job following release from prison. Blue Sky have been brilliant.”

“Being unemployed was really getting me down. Applying for jobs and being constantly turned down due to my prison record was soul destroying.”

“My experience has been that Blue Sky have treated me with respect and kindness and have got me a job with the minimum of fuss and without making me feel like a dangerous criminal.  Blue Sky is a shining beacon in the (small) field of helping ex-offenders. I can’t speak highly enough of their service.”

“Firstly they do not judge people, they give you an opportunity and if you prove to them they will open up a lot of doors for you. If you have a problem then they will listen to you and build your confidence. They are a god send.”

“Blue Sky offer a real job, with real wages and structure compared to other companies”

“Blue Sky give ex-offenders a job and do not judge them”

“Because Blue Sky really do get you back into work very rapidly. You are given that chance which so many of us desperately need. Then and  only then are we able to build up some form of normality and build a stable structure that can allow us to maintain a normal, respectable position in society.”


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