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Changing Paths

Ellie Price, about 7 months ago

Changing Paths Charitable Trust was set up in 2010 to provide pathways to sustainable employment for offenders and ex-offenders. By offering relevant, accredited training programmes, Changing Paths aims to reduce reoffending, reduce prison numbers and increase the number of people in work.

However, training programmes alone are not enough to break the cycle of reoffending. If concrete employment opportunities are not part of the overall formula, an individual's commitment to a training programme can be compromised and devalued. Changing Paths recognises this issue. Their vision is to find a way to provide both training and employment for ex-offenders, providing work experience placements and help finding full-time jobs, as well as training opportunities. Access to employment is one of the major factors determining whether an offender will reoffend on release, and Changing Paths is doing all it can to ensure that the individuals with whom they work really do have such access.

Liberty Employment is Changing Paths' original enterprise. It aims to place individuals into sustainable employment in the construction and built environment sectors. Candidates receive training to be accredited with CSCS, demolition (CCDO) and LUL cards. As well as providing future employment and career opportunities, Liberty Employment provides individuals with life skills, helping them to break down their fears and barriers and build confidence, supporting them to become work-ready.

Liberty Catering is the second programme run by Changing Paths. Originally established in 2013 to operate the Visits Tea Bar at HMP Rochester, Liberty Catering then opened 'Sir Joe's Café' at Thames Tideway's corporate offices in Paddington. Building site cafes have since been opened in Greenwich, Wembley and Cambridge, serving over 1,500 construction workers a day (with more site canteens in development). Liberty Catering has also started event catering for corporate customers with their first event commissioned by the National Maritime Development Group.

Through the facility at HMP Rochester, Liberty Catering is able to provide a training environment for a small number of carefully selected trusted offenders, allowing them to learn how to work in a catering environment and giving them the opportunity to gain food preparation and retail sales experience. Liberty Catering has also established a partnership with The Pret Foundation which provides move-on opportunities for staff, as well as valuable guidance and advice.

Liberty Stone Works, Changing Paths' third and final programme, was established in 2012. An accredited training programme is offered to selected individuals to become stonemasons. As well as hoping to reduce reoffending by providing skills that lead to long-term employment, Liberty Stone Works hopes to address the skills shortage in the heritage sector by offering a programme that will provide the construction industry with skilled craftsmen to build, repair and maintain national heritage and other prestigious buildings. During the programme, trainees have the opportunity to undertake private commissions. This allows them to gain experience of stonemasonry as well as understanding of the importance of working to deadlines.

Easter Island Heads, Liberty Stone Works commissioned work

They also have a workshop in the community which gives those who have been transferred to an open establishment or released to complete the stonemasonry programme. After completing the training, Liberty Stone Works helps to place masons into sustainable paid employment or apprenticeship schemes, offering mentoring and support during the process. Graduates of the programme are now being employed in the construction sector.

Stone Steps, Liberty Stone Works commissioned work

“When I was 19 I was sentenced to 6 years and felt that my aspirations had been ruined. The first few jobs I had in Prison were worthless mundane tasks and as I had a fairly long sentence, I wanted to make the most of a bad situation, doing as many courses as possible. As I have experience at working with my hands and a passion for Art, Stonemasonry seemed ideal for me. I thought that I had no future and when I released I would have nothing, but this course has given me the opportunity to acquire the skills and experience necessary to form a great career in Stonemasonry as well as doing something to fill the days, rather than just counting the days. This course has given my life meaning and purpose. I look forward to waking up in the morning, learning something new and interesting every day. My family are proud I am putting my time behind bars to good use with a respectable traditional trade.” – Liberty Stone Works trainee stonemason

Their philosophy behind reducing reoffending is a simple one. Allow ex-offenders the chance to build secure, meaningful places for themselves within society by giving them a clear pathway to real employment opportunities.