By Rik Willis
Offploy has a driving ethos to help get people with convictions, regardless of background or conviction, into meaningful, mentored and sustainable employment. We very much believe in offering a hand up rather than a hand out.
Amongst our referred clients are military and police veterans who have been prepared to put their lives on the line for their country in the course of their uniformed service. Just because something has gone wrong in their lives and they have experienced the criminal justice system doesn’t diminish their previous service, commitment to their country or their huge body of experience. At some point they went through a long selection and training process to get to wear Her Majesty’s uniform. A uniform which for most of them was a visible symbol of service and belonging. As Robert Baden-Powell said:
"The uniform makes for brotherhood,
since when universally adopted it covers
up all differences of class and country.”
Going to prison is for anyone a shock to their sense of self-worth, their emotional and financial stability and to their sense of being a valued part of society. For veterans that disgrace and sense of loss of belonging to a wider brotherhood of serving and retired people of like mind, can be even more profound. Because of the high standards expected of men and women who wear the uniform, going to prison is the ultimate fall from grace and those people are often shunned by their former colleagues. That is one reason why veterans who have been through the criminal justice system so often struggle to adjust to their new reality. If this is on top of pre-existing issues such as combat-related PTSD there may be many layers of problems to address.
Offploy Veterans was a concept over a year in gestation and the subject of many discussions between Jacob Hill and myself. We agreed that we wanted to offer an additional layer of service to military and police veterans who had put their convictions behind them and wanted to re-engage with society as productive, employed and respected citizens.
Step one was to identify all veterans on our books so that we understood the scale of the cohort we needed to support.
Step two was to contact the MoD to register Offploy as an Armed Forces Covenant company. This has been done and we are now just awaiting the MoD’s confirmation and listing on their website.
Step three was to identify the many benefits that are available to veterans, from the Defence Discount Card (which Offploy will fund for its first 100 candidates), the Veterans’ Badge, and soon to roll out Veterans’ Rail Card, to the more general support available through micro-grants and mental health support. Our colleagues have been briefed and are now primed to signpost veterans to the extra support.
In time we plan to improve the offering of Offploy Veterans, to include assigning specific veteran mentors and organising group meetings of veterans to share experiences and mutual support. However, this further ambition will need to wait until we have identified specific funding and further support sources.
In the meantime Offploy Veterans is now up and running and we are excited to help veterans of all cloth get back the dignity they deserve as they travel a path back into meaningful, mentored and sustainable employment.