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 Logo USE

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 is now registered in the Hardman Directory where you can find other support and grants. . . .

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The Hardman Directory was formerly known as The Prisoner Funder Directory. The Directory aims to meet the need of prisoners and ex-offenders for accurate, up-to-date information on the funding available to those who are seeking to rebuild their lives and to contribute in a productive way to their home communities as part of an effective resettlement. The directory is a guide primarily for prisoners. However, many organisations provide support for those serving sentences, in the community, ex-offenders and the families of prisoners and ex-offenders.

Organisations such as Blue Sky, which help ex-offenders with real solutions can be found in the directory.  The Hardman Directory highlights Blue Sky’s work providing jobs for ex-offenders and our work training employees with the funding of suitable accreditation and qualifications. To get more information on the support available to prisoners and ex-offenders go to:



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Amey celebrates 10 year partnership with Blue Sky

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Amey Logo

Amey and social enterprise, Blue Sky, are celebrating 10 years of partnership and more than 300 new hires – all of whom are ex-offenders.

Launched in 2005, Blue Sky was created with the aim of getting more ex-offenders into meaningful employment and to help reduce the risk of reoffending. To date, the social enterprise has employed approximately 1,150 people, of which more than a quarter of them are with public services provider Amey.

Group HR and Communications Director for Amey, Ian Deninson, commented:

“We’ve been working with Blue Sky over the last decade to help find work for ex-offenders. Giving people a fresh start is something that we passionately believe in and we’re extremely proud to not only have hit this milestone but that nearly half of the people we’ve brought on board have secured further employment.”

Kate Markey, Blue Sky’s MD added:

“It is only with the support of organisations such as Amey that enables Blue Sky to continue to provide the support to help ex-offenders break the cycle of re-offending, bringing them stability and the chance to make a fresh start. Gaining this milestone proves the potential for our model, and how it is possible to bring long-term social value within the delivery of local authority supply chain contracts. We look forward to working with Amey, and to extending the areas in which we can bring them support.”

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Blue Sky Business Associate Opportunity

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From prison reforms to our merger, these are incredibly exciting times for the award-winning social enterprise Blue Sky.

More than 90,000 people leave prison every year in England and Wales, over 60% will re-offend within 2 years at a cost of £13bn. At Blue Sky, we believe one of the best ways to help an ex-offender move away from crime is to give them a job. We hold one of highest scores for reducing re-offending recorded by the Ministry of Justice, but think there’s much more we can do.

We are looking for an outstanding Business Associate to work with us over the next 6 months initially. We have a number of exciting developments and are looking for someone with sound commercial knowledge, financial acumen and a drive for social impact to help realise our ambitions.

We are open to exploring different options for the position in order to secure the right candidate, including a fixed term contract or consultancy – but we will require a minimum of 3 days per week.

We are seeking to expand our existing business lines to create more job opportunities for ex-offenders and serving prisoners: Blue Sky’s temp agency to new industries and services under its grounds maintenance division. We need someone who can grasp our business quickly, bring strong business and financial skills, entrepreneurial flair and a desire to create social impact.

We can offer experience right at the frontline of social enterprise, a stimulating environment and the opportunity create real social change through your commercial skills. You’ll work closely with the Senior Management Team and also have access to Blue Sky’s parent charity, RAPt.

Blue Sky is based near Uxbridge but operates across London and the South East. We can be flexible on where the associate is based but it will require a minimum of two days in our office. Salary is dependent upon experience.


How to apply:

You can find out more about our work at . If you would also like a confidential discussion about the opportunity, we can arrange a telephone call. Please submit CV and Covering Letter – referring to the person specification below – to myself, Kate Markey, MD of Blue Sky Development at


Person Specification

Essential Skills

  • Demonstrable track record in business development
  • Strong commercial acumen from commercial, social or public sector
  • Experience in building budgets and developing operating models
  • Experienced in Microsoft excel, word and PowerPoint
  • Project management experience
  • Effective research skills to translate into business cases and inform decision-making
  • Ability to research unfamiliar business sectors

 Personal Attributes

  • Ambitious and driven
  • Ability to work at pace and a self-starter
  • Comfortable managing multiple priorities
  • Focused and output driven
  • Comfortable working with ambiguity
  • Ability to succeed within a small organisation and operate across boundaries
  • Confident and ability to engage different stakeholders


  • Knowledge of FM, Grounds Maintenance or wider outsourcing sectors
  • Project management experience
  • Knowledge and / or experience of social enterprise models
  • Experience within outsourcing / business services sector
  • Experience of start-up business support
  • Knowledge of the criminal justice or employability sectors
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Blue Sky response to Prime Minister’s prison reform announcement

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Blue Sky, the temp agency that only employs ex-offenders, welcomes the Prime Minister’s announcement on prison reform today. Blue Sky’s approach reduces re-offending by up to 23%, according to statistics from the Ministry of Justice.

Kate Markey, MD of Blue Sky, said: “The Prime Minister’s commitment to prison reform and educational opportunities for offenders is exactly what is needed if we are to help them establish a life away from crime when they leave prison. Effectively, the move from crime to paid employment is a career change for many ex-offenders. Education is important but vocational training with real opportunities for employment is vital in helping them make this important life change. We know this because our approach reduces re-offending by up to 23%. Offenders know when the jobs they’re being offered aren’t genuinely useful and productive. Real jobs provided through charities like Blue Sky help them find structure, routine and discipline in their lives. With Blue Sky they can start on Monday and have a wage packet in their pocket by Friday. Like everyone, they need a normal life, to provide for their family and to be economically active if they are to successfully move away from a life of crime and prison.”

About Blue Sky

Blue Sky recruits from prison and in the community to provide ex-offenders with job placements for six months. By providing industry training in prison Blue Sky helps ensure potential employees are ready for jobs on release. Ex-offenders in job placements who demonstrate good attendance and performance can access grants for training and housing.

Blue Sky has placed 1160 ex-offenders in jobs to date and over 40% of these go on to secure employment after leaving the Blue Sky placement. Over half of these are with our commercial partners who offer the initial job placement.

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Why Blue Sky Inside is important

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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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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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