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Prosper 4 Group and Tees & Wear Reform Group

Eleanor De, about 6 years ago

The Tees & Wear Reform Group was founded as the 'Teesside Reform Prisons' by the Ministry of Justice in 2016, encompassing HMPs Holme House and Kirklevington Grange before expanding to include HMP Durham and Young Offenders Insitution Deerbolt in April 2017. The Group has a number of priorities which include the reduction of reoffending and the successful resettlement of prisoner leavers since, typically, fewer than 10% of prisoners have real employment opportunities on release.

Prosper 4 Group became involved with Teesside after winning contracts to deliver employment services within Holme House and Kirklevington Grange.

Since 2016, Prosper 4 Group has been providing Self-Employment Courses and Jobs Brokerage to ROTL and imminent-release eligible candidates. Additionally, they have introduced businesses to the prisons that are able and willing to provide sustainable vocational activity for prisoners whilst in custody, including CODE4000, the subject of our last blog.

In the last few months, Prosper 4 has established itself in Teesside and now has a secure, vetted and approved office in Stockton with permanent staff supporting their local activity. The Teesside activities and accomplishments to date can be described as falling in to one of two key categories:

1. Self-Employment and Enterprise

In Kirklevington Grange during June 2017, Prosper 4 Group held their first practical Self-Employment course with 15 enthusiastic candidates selected from an evening workshop held in April which was attended by 32 prisoners. The course was conducted by Prosper Associates acting as tutors and supervisory mentors during evening sessions spread over 3 weeks to allow those on ROTL to work outside the prison during the day. As a result of the course, Prosper 4 Group is currently reviewing and updating 8 business plans with a view to presenting them to potential start-up loans and other funders in the near future. When the prisoners are released, Prosper will continue to mentor these individuals to maximise their chances of commercial and vocational success. In the wider community, Prosper is also working with funders (including Start Up Loans Company), banks and financial services (including Virgin and Santander) and mentors (including BITC and SULCo).

2. Jobs Brokering

This is the main focus of Prosper's Teesside work and they have developed relationships with local employers for ROTL opportunities as well as seeking out new businesses to participate (i.e. those which have not previously engaged with Kirklevington). This includes individual restaurants and hotels such as Cena in Yarm and The Bay Horse in Hurworth, hotel groups such as Premier Inn, bakers such as Warburtons and car companies like Peugeot. Prosper now has a process in place to acquire the candidate information relevant to their job matching exercise. So far, Prosper's achievements have included holding one-to-one interviews with over 70 prisoners, building working relationships with all relevant HMPS partners involved in the 'Through the Gate' process, and processing candidates for 2 local ROTL jobs. Prosper 4 Group is now aiming for 1 successful work placement per week and targeted 7 job interviews during July with identified candidates for specified jobs with a view to introducing this approach into Holme House in the near future.

Noel and Charlie are two prisoners who have benefited from Prosper 4 Group's Teesside involvement. Noel is currently working on daily release from prison in the Prosper 4 Group office as an administration worker. He is a local man who is currently serving a 2-year sentence and has demonstrated great interpersonal and administration skills in the duration of his work placement. Charlie is also working on day release from prison and has recently participated in a programme in Kirklevington in which he worked on a car jet-washing facility just outside the prison. The skills he developed on the programme have helped him into employment outside prison through the daily release scheme.