Thoughts, stories and events to share


James Gourlay, about 4 years ago

Key4Life are a charity who support young men aged 18-30 both in prison and 'at risk' of going to prison. Their mission is to reduce reoffending through delivering innovative rehabilitation programmes.

Their model focuses on tackling the root causes of reoffending, instead of symptoms, prioritising development of emotional resilience, and employability skills.

We spoke to Key4life's Founder, Eva Hamilton, to discuss the work they are doing.

A unique element of the programme that Key4Life runs is interaction with horses. Eva says that the horses act as a transformation tool for the people they work with, and that they allow the participants to unlock pain, a key step in moving past negative events in their lives.

Following this stage, Key4Life will then provide employability and employment support to their mentees. They help to develop a post-release action plan with a mentor, and carry out preparation interviews so that participants are ready to take their first steps in to employment. They will also bring in to prison a large number of employers, allowing both the candidates and employers to start establishing relationships.

This all comes to fruition when candidates go on three-day work tasters with Key 4 Life's partner employers. Eva believes that the three-day tasters are the single best way that businesses can start their journey to employing ex-offenders.

Everything Eva's team does is aimed at making the experience “as smooth as possible" for employers. Key4Life helps businesses through the process at every stage, and ensures that employers understand other factors in the lives of the Key4Life participants that they come to employ. They help businesses to build “a focus on (having) internal mentors", and work to allay any fears that employers may have about employing ex-offenders by "pre-empting problems that may arise".

For both employers, and the mentees, the experience of working together through Key4Life is a life changing one. Eva says that businesses “feel really proud" that they've been able to give someone a chance to rebuild their lives, and they “cannot speak more highly" of the mentees they work with.

Ultimately, Eva states, that:

“having our young men brings so much to the staff, to the company itself, because they feel good about themselves, they feel it's a win/win for company and the individual, and it gives them immense pride, to know they are doing something good, and it also teaches them, it is giving them insight in to a world that they have probably never been exposed to".

Key4Life's programme has seen extraordinary success with a reoffending rate of just 14%, compared to the national average of 64% one year after post release. They also secure sustained employment for 61% of their Key4Life participants, which is four times the national average. Furthermore, the community programme has seen 78% of participants finding employment. As Eva says, the key to their success is helping mentees ensure they are “sustaining a job".