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Insight: Matthias Stausberg, group advocacy director at Virgin

We were delighted to welcome guest speaker, Matthias Stausberg, to our employer services webinar on 23 November – and he provided a fantastic insight into Virgin’s own practices when it comes to people with convictions, as well as valuable advice for those just getting started.

Opening the day’s events, Matthias told how the situation of second chance hiring in the UK hasn’t yet reached its potential – and that we need more organisations to help people that have struggled in life, to work towards a better future.

Virgin firmly believes that no one should be judged by the worst moment of their life – as do we. That’s why it’s vital that employers look beyond criminal records and seek the right person for the job, supporting those at a disadvantage wherever possible, too.

The prison population in England & Wales has seen an increase of 74% over the past 30 years – and a ‘commitment’ to increase the number of available prison places to 125,000 by 2030. But is this truly the answer?

The challenge is that reoffending rates remain high, and the reality is that it’s very hard for people to escape the life they had before. But, we also know that when employment comes into the mix, reoffending drops significantly.

This is part of the reason why many Virgin companies have ‘banned the box’. It may seem like a small step, but it majorly reduces barriers to employment – given that disclosing a conviction often feels as though it equals automatic dismissal from the application process.

Leaving the audience with five key tips, Matthias urged those thinking about ex-offender employment to:

1 Don’t go it alone.

Smart partnering is the key to success, so firms should look to work with organisations which have experience with the prison system, the Ministry of Justice, and who understand how to engage with people with criminal convictions.

2 Build support internally.

Staff will undoubtedly ask if they’re safe, and may also be concerned for their own job security. This is perfectly normal, and that’s why it’s important to involve employees in the initial conversations, and aim to reduce some of the barriers to engagement.

3 Be accepting to a normal level of risk

Not everything works out all the time – regardless of who you employ. Some people might not find the job they have been given is right for them, or vice-versa.

4 Think beyond employment

It isn’t solely employment that can help people, but sourcing or incorporating businesses led by ex-offenders into your supply chain can have a huge impact, too. Take Inmade for instance, it’s a fantastic example of where you can support ‘purposeful procurement’.

5 Embrace the positive impact

Don’t forget to stop and reflect on the help you’re able to give – because it’s immensely fulfilling. From my own experience, there’s nothing like seeing happiness from a person who previously wouldn’t have been given the time of day – and being a part of providing an opportunity for them to rebuild their lives.

I encourage anyone reading this to look closer at how you might support ex-offender employment – rest assured, you won’t be going through it alone. In case you missed the event, you can catch up on the recording, here.


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