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RIFT Social Enterprise

Sophie O'Sullivan, about 2 weeks ago

Self-employment and entrepreneurship are empowering. They offer independence, the ability to creatively engage with one's passions and the space for further development and growth. For people who have gone through the criminal justice system, self-employment is a viable option and sometimes, especially for high-risk candidates, is the only realistic route to pursue through-the-gate.

On the blog, we have spoken about the enlightening research from the Centre for Entrepreneurs in 2016. One of the primary findings revealed that79% of prisoners are interested in starting a business – compared to around 40% of the UK population. Recently, New Futures Network have also pledged a commitment to education and self-employment.

Focus on: RIFT Social Enterprise

RIFT Social Enterprise was founded in January 2018 by RIFT Group's Chairwoman Jan Post. They specialise in tax advice, supporting those with convictions and those furthest away from employment (eg long-term unemployed, people with disabilities) in claiming tax rebates, with HMRC-related issues (e.g. penalty accrual whilst in prison) and self-employment.Since 2018, they have supported over 200 prisoners in claiming tax refunds with the average refund currently standing at £640 per person and have eradicated over £35k worth of HMRC-related penalties.

Jan came up with the concept after speaking to a self-employed gardener working at a friend's property. He told her how he'd learned his trade while in HMP Highpoint, where the grounds are all maintained by serving prisoners. He had succeeded in setting up his own business, but quickly ran into trouble with HMRC. Jan noticed that this was a common narrative within the prison community and vowed to use her expert knowledge to help people with their entrepreneurial activities.

After making connections within the prison settings, it became quickly apparent that RIFT Social Enterprise could also offer one-to-one self-employment advice and training. Since 2018, they have supported a number of men and women with self-employment/business start-up advice. This support carries on for 12 months post-release and starts from when candidates feel ready and able to engage with their business idea. RIFT also complete their first tax return on behalf of the candidate. They have connected with 37 prisons thus far.

Within prisons, they run one to one sessions and half-day workshops on the practicalities of self-employment. This does not include things like social media, but more rather the nuts and bolts of starting a business i.e. insurance, pay roll, limited company registration, sole trader registration, self-assessment tax return, unique tax reference number, profit and loss, how to set up a company account, etc. The education they provide is foundational and acts as a building block to boost the confidence of an individual.

RIFT have engaged with a plethora of business ideas including a dog grooming parlour, a music business, a haulage company, landscape gardening and construction. RIFT advisors are straight forward and to the point in their consulting, urging candidates to consider the practicalities they may face so that they are not set up to fail.

We also have many contacts in the prison service, and with a range of training providers and employers. Working together, we saw an opportunity to break down the cultural, technical and practical barriers that are keeping former offenders out of sustainable employment. Working with employers in construction, offshore and other sectors, we're looking to have a measurable effect on reoffending rates and transform people's lives and communities.

-Jan Post, Founder, RIFT Social Enterprise

If you are interested in finding our more information about HMRC/ self-employment issues for people with convictions, please contact RIFT through their website or via our directory.

Last year, we attended Project ReMAKE graduation showcase, which celebrated the work of 13 candidates who participated in the free entrepreneurship training project. Participants work with business mentors to help them get their business off the ground and learn skills in marketing, accounts and social media. After a successful pilot year, they are launching another session that will run from October to December. The course is being run in partnership with King's College London, and London South Bank University (LSBU).