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Why Blue Sky Inside is important

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15
Jan

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.

 

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Blue Sky in The Times

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14
Jan

Blue Sky features in a piece in The Times about the rehabilitative power of real work.

One of our employees quoted in the piece says: “It’s given me the chance to build new skills and develop my self-confidence… I have belief in myself. And I’ve never had that before.”

Blue Sky Inside - The Times 14.01.16

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Mick history

Blue Sky Founder Receives New Year Honour

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4
Jan

Mick May, Blue Sky’s founder, has received an OBE in the 2016 New Year Honours List. The OBE acknowledges Mick’s achievement in establishing Blue Sky back in 2005 as a social enterprise dedicated to employing ex-offenders, and in leading the organisation for nearly 10 years before stepping down in February last year.

Thanks to Mick’s entrepreneurial vision, energy and drive, Blue Sky has given a first step on the employment ladder to over 1,100 ex-offenders, a large prison’s worth. Less than 15% of those employed have gone to re-offend, a quarter of the national average, generating significant social and economic benefit in the process. Blue Sky Inside, an initiative set up in 2012 to employ and train serving prisoners, was also Mick’s brainchild, which has engaged nearly 200 offenders including 150 women in prison. Blue Sky has received numerous awards including the prestigious Charity Award (in 2010 and 2015) and was chosen as 10 Downing Street’s Social Action Partner for 2011.

On receiving the Honour, Mick said with characteristic humour and modesty: “Any mug can have a half-decent idea. However, Blue Sky came to fruition because of three factors: the dedication and hard work of my talented colleagues; secondly a board of trustees of which a FTSE 100 company would have been envious; finally our truly magnificent and inspired supporters and patrons”.

David Bernstein, Blue Sky’s Chair, said: “This is such a well-deserved achievement. Like any social entrepreneur, Mick saw a social need and responded with a business solution. The simplicity of Blue Sky’s model and power of its outcomes are as compelling today as they were 10 years ago. Blue Sky is delighted that Mick remains a Patron and Friend to our continued efforts to help break the cycle of re-offending.”

 

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Experienced training professional needed

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14
Dec

Blue Sky, the award-winning social enterprise working with ex-offenders, is seeking the services of an experienced training professional to support the development of its training activities.

In the New Year, Blue Sky will be delivering accredited training (short 2-day courses) in waste management and grounds maintenance. Courses will broadly cover the use of tools, health and safety, industry regulations as well as background on working for Blue Sky. Activities will initially be run in 2-3 prisons in London, with potential for further work at Blue Sky’s offices in Denham near Uxbridge.

We seek the services of an experienced trainer, to work on an associate basis, who can both deliver and support the development of training courses. Ideally prospective associates will be eligible to work in prisons and / or have appropriate security checks – though this is not essential and can be arranged on appointment.

Apply by sending an up-to-date CV and a covering letter outlining your experience in developing training materials and delivering training. Experience of working in the prison environment or the criminal justice sector is an advantage.  Also state your expected availability from January 2016 and daily rates.

Email Carwyn Gravell, Development Director at Blue Sky – carwyn.gravell@blueskydevelopment.co.uk

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“Released from the past”

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25
Nov

We recently conducted a survey of our employees. Many thanks to everyone who took part. Below are some inspirational quotes from the responses given:

 

“Being in work allows people to be released from their past and make a better future.”

 

“I now know that if I keep my head down and behave myself people are prepared to give me a chance. Not everybody, but some and that is a positive start and it gives me a positive feeling within.”

 

“Working with Blue Sky has meant meeting new people, keeping me fit, something to look forward to each day, it is nice to see a wage slip, and working for my own money and not relying on JSA.”

 

“Right now the thing that motivates me is I actually enjoy getting up and working for my money as opposed to stealing it and getting my kicks from other people’s misery. Looking back at my past I must say I much prefer being in the position I am in right now rather than how I was when I was on drugs and heavily into me. I get a better feeling inside having earned my money rather than stealing it.”

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A visit from the Deputy Mayor

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23
Nov

Blue Sky was delighted to welcome Stephen Greenalgh, London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime (pictured below between Blue Sky’s Kate Markey and Steve Finn) on a visit to see one of our ex-offender teams in action in Ealing. The Deputy Mayor was bowled over by Blue Sky’s work and its impact on reducing re-offending. “Such a clear, simple model,” he said. “But so effective…” Stephen, we couldn’t agree more!

 

DSC_0174 use

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Nicole and mum

Rehabilitation by design – Nicole’s story

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11
Nov

At the age of just 24, Nicole Douglas was convicted of a serious drug offence and sentenced to 4 years’ imprisonment at HMP Bronzefield. A bright young woman with a Masters in Media and Communication, Nicole’s world came crashing down around her. Though distraught and remorseful, Nicole was quietly determined to the make the most of her time in prison and to re-build her life. A work opportunity in the prison at Blue Sky’s Stitch in Time textiles workshop caught her eye, as she had always had an interest in sewing. She applied and got the job.

As soon as she started working at Stitch in Time, it was clear that Nicole had talent. Though conscientious and ever keen to put her shoulder to the wheel with the rest of the team to fulfil the workshop’s commercial orders, Nicole, given a spare moment, would doodle designs and experiment with bits of left over fabric. When the opportunity came for Stitch in Time to work with designer Sue Bonham for a fashion show at the Old Bailey, Nicole couldn’t wait to be involved. She came up with a design that blew Sue away; Nicole made the dress herself too (pictured below). It took pride of place on the cat walk. “Making that dress and being involved in a fashion show was Cinderella stuff,“ says Nicole, “the only difference being, I didn’t get to the ball that night… I was still inside.”

Old Bailey (14)

On completing her sentence and her time at the workshop, Nicole left HMP Bronzefield with a clear goal: to become a designer. Blue Sky has been delighted to support her aspiration. We gave Nicole a Matched Grant to buy a sewing machine. She has been working with our Community Support Worker, Yvonne Williams, to access expertise in setting up a business, and also receiving help from the Real Business Club in applying for new business grants. She has been on a print screening course and has designed her own logo. It all seems to be paying off. Nicole is rapidly drumming up business, picking up commissions from modelling her own outfits at festivals and carnivals.

Nicole now has her eyes on a future that’s full of hope, but she hasn’t forgotten her recent past. When she’s built up enough orders for her clothes, Nicole would love to involve Stitch in Time in production. “Putting something back,” she explains, “to a very special place that helped me re-design my life.”

(Nicole is pictured with her mother Sharon Douglas at a recent fundraising event hosted by Blue Sky patron Anya Hindmarch.)

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Widen the recruitment net and see the potential…

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5
Oct

How are today’s  leading companies demonstrating their social credibility and widening their pool of talent to stay competitive?

Are your recruitment practices holding your company back?

How could ex-offenders help your business?

Find out how Blue Sky can address these questions for your company. Download our latest thought-leadership piece, following our pivotal involvement in the DWP’s See Potential campaign.

WIDEN THE RECRUITMENT NET AND SEE THE POTENTIAL

 

 

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Designing Core Services Whitepaper: More Bang For Your Buck

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25
Sep

Blue Sky has launched a new whitepaper entitled: Designing Core Services
With In-Built Social Value: More Bang For Your Buck.

In the current climate, how can councils ensure they generate maximum social value – as well cost savings – for communities? In austere times, will the long-term social value achieved by outsourced services still be commensurate with the financial value of contracts? And how best should councils prioritise the social outcomes infrastructure services can deliver?

Our recent white paper takes on these questions and the document offers a series of recommendations for council directorates to mandate maximum in-built social value from the purchase and delivery of their infrastructure services.

Please click on the link below to download the whitepaper.

BLUE SKY AND PUBLIC SERVICES – MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

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