Our grounds maintenance team in Hounslow had something other than rubbish, dog mess and stinging nettles to contend with today.
As we enter 2014/15 please find our key figures for the last financial year before the counters go back to 0 again:
In addition, we have started operating in a number of new areas which has enabled us to employ many more ex-offenders:
Southwark, Wandsworth, Reigate, Gloucester, Kingston, Richmond, Newbury, Bromley, Rushmoor, Watford, East Village, Dagenham, Croydon.
Well done everyone, bring on the next year!Leave a comment
If you didn’t see Annie’s first blog back in February then have a quick read of it here.
Some names have been changed.Leave a comment
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Down in Cornwall Jo was waitressing work to get by and support her family. Her issue was that the work was seasonal so for large chunks of the year she was really struggling for money. It was particularly hard over winter when her 3 kids were on Christmas holidays and expecting presents. To make matters worse, Jo was taking valium everyday to try and deal with the loss of both her parents, the breakdown of her marriage and losing her house.
Jo started out by committing petty thefts each week to sell items for money. One day, on seeing someone leaving the bank with a bag of money, she made the split decision to commit a robbery. It was unsuccessful and she was quickly identified by witnesses to the police. Jo was handed a 32-month sentence for attempted robbery and prior to that she had only spent 33 days in prison.
Jo spotted the Blue Sky workshop in Bronzefield prison and applied for a role because she had done textiles at school. During her interview she informed Allison, the Programme Manager, that she was desperate to try and get straight into work on release. Keen to work outside, Jo was an ideal candidate to move into a Blue Sky grounds maintenance team and 3 months prior to release she started with us on ROTL (release on temporary licence) twice a week.
Despite having no grounds maintenance experience Jo got stuck in straight away learning how to use all the relevant equipment and the ride-on mower. As her release date was approaching she told Dave, our Resettlement Officer, that she wanted to relocate so she could have a fresh start, continue working for Blue Sky and have easier access to her children. Dave sourced her a room in Slough and accessed our Matched Grant Scheme (Jo contributed nearly 30% of the £440 using money saved from her prison wages) and Housing Loan Fund to pay the deposit, administration fee and first month’s rent. Jo has been repaying the £600 drawn down from the Housing Fund in weekly instalments since her full-time 6-month contract with us started in March.
Annie worked with us twice a week at Denham for 3 months whilst on ROTL from prison (release on temporary licence – day release). When she was released she headed north to stay with her family and, as expected, has found it difficult to secure a full-time job:
Well, I had my first ‘post-prison’ job interview today for a sales job – I thought it was going reasonably well until the panel. Jiminy Cricket! They started talking about concerns about my sales technique (understandable – I don’t like cold-callers myself!) but that with training they were happy I would excel. All good stuff but then, of course, THE question happened. Yikes! Looking back, I wish I had a camera because the man at the end practically did the ‘cartoon eyes-out-of-socket look’! The whole atmosphere went from positive to ‘set me on fire with a single look’.
“We weren’t aware of your conviction, but it’s nice that you’ve been forth-coming…”
I turned it around a little bit by mentioning my ROTLs with Blue Sky, explaining the process and the work I did with you all – I even went to offer them one of the references Steve had written for me but was told: “Oh that won’t be necessary“. The woman even hesitated when I offered my hand at the end of the interview – needless to say I didn’t get the job.
C’est La Vie, we all knew it would be a challenge and it’s something I just have to persevere with. At the end of the day, at least they didn’t lynch me and it was interview practice. The more people ask about my record the easier it will be to disclose it and keep the focus on my positive attributes!
I was offered an interview for my old Bar Supervisor job and I thought it would go well but it really, really didn’t. The location had a lot of sentimental memories attached to it and I think that caught me on the back foot to begin with. There were 2 people interviewing me and the set up was quite intimidating. We walked into a poorly lit room with a conference table. Their side of the table had every chair for the individual place settings, whereas mine just had the single chair… I wondered where they’d moved the rest of the row. There was a glass of water in front of my place which I remember thinking was a nice touch, even with the water marks.
John did the majority of the talking, Steph just nodded and rolled her eyes (a lot). I’m not sure how much was at me or at the boredom of sitting through yet another interview. I was not getting good vibes from her, I almost wanted to lean forward and say: “Keepin’ you up, love?”. Almost!
“You have a bit of a gap in employment between 2012-2013. Why is this?”
I literally went hot, stumbled over my words because I had assumed they would have been brought up to speed by their HR Department. Clearly not.
“I think at this juncture its best that I’m honest. Your HR Department is aware that I went to prison”
“Well, yes honesty would be best and you know we value that highly. What was the offence?”
“Erm… well I’m sure you can understand that it can be difficult to discuss but…” I then gave the particulars as necessary and, as per normal, watched them go pale. They really did not know. I could feel myself getting emotional so took a sip of water before asking if there was anything else they needed to know about that. I was so tongue-tied I didn’t even mention my ROTLs. I fell over my words and only managed to say that I felt prison had been educational and I find it much easier to talk to people from all walks of life now. Well, this is actually a lie. I now find it easier to talk to others with a criminal record or an open-mind, I find it incredibly difficult to talk to everyone now – a skill I used to pride myself on.
John smiled which was reassuring and asked what I knew about the company – with a chuckle, because he knew I’d completed their training programmes. I reeled off a brilliant (if I do say so myself!) synopsis of the firm, their ethos, history and successes. Steph actually said that she didn’t even know some of the stuff I’d said! That did help me find my feet again. They went on to explain the way the business was moving forward but I couldn’t help but feel I wouldn’t be a part of it. Particularly when they said: “The role you are actually being interviewed for has been given…but that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be opportunities in the future… There will be a round of second interviews next week and if you have passed this stage we will phone in the next few days…”
I haven’t heard anything.
I am disappointed. I tried to turn things around when they asked if I had any questions. I asked about different roles in the company and if they had other positions in different areas as I’m happy to travel. To that they responded with: “We only let our most experienced, professional and efficient staff do that.” NICE! The teenager in me felt like railing about the member of staff in their reception area chewing gum, the water marks on my glass and the nose-stud in my interviewer’s nose (against food hygiene) but I bit my tongue and smiled.
Perhaps it was time that I moved on anyway – exes are exes for a reason, regardless of whether they’re a relationship or a job. Well, that’s what I told myself as we shook hands and I got to my car. I then sobbed for half an hour. I don’t expect special treatment. I know people will judge me on my criminal record but I would like to at least have my experience and qualifications acknowledged. Let’s be honest all of that stings but, in reality, I just really wanted a job.
I’ll keep trying and keep interviewing whenever I’m given the chance. That’s all I can do really because at the end of the day I want to work and make a life for myself with prison firmly in the past.Leave a comment
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