In Custody: Why quality careers advice is crucial

Our view

The purpose of prisons

In its white paper on Prison Safety and Reform, released last month, the Government reported that “Once released, too many prisoners will go on to re-offend. Currently, almost half of all prisoners are re-convicted within a year of release.”

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the more support and rehabilitation a prisoner is exposed to, the less likely they are to re-offend after release. This is why we’re passionate about the role that quality careers advice plays in transforming a prisoner’s fortunes.

If you feel you have no alternative on release, you’re likely to go back to the life you knew before. Appropriate careers advice enables prisoners to make choices about the training and work which can turn their lives around and which can often be undertaken while they’re still in prison.

How we help

As the organisation responsible for delivering impartial, in-custody careers advice in prisons across the East Midlands and large areas of central and eastern England, we see the transformative effects of inspiring prisoners about their future. Just like in our mainstream provision of the National Careers Service, we provide help with aspects such as CVs, preparing for interviews and job applications but, just as every customer we see is an individual, there is no one size-fits-all delivery for prisons.

In some institutions, we have face-to-face appointments with prisoners as soon as they arrive, so that we can quickly ascertain what their skills and ambitions are and help them ensure their time in prison is spent, as much as possible, on the pursuit and achievement of these aims. At other institutions, we focus more on pre-release; seeing prisoners 3 months before they leave and working in partnership with other organisations to ensure that, if they haven’t got a job to go to, they are pre-registered with the job centre, have a good quality CV and are aware of the opportunities in their area of release.

Tailor-made provision

Every prison, just like every local job market, is different.This is why, in the 23 prisons we currently work in, we liaise closely with governors to tailor our provision to their needs. We know from the white paper that governors will not only have more autonomy to make decisions that have the most impact to meet the needs of their particular prisoners, but that they will also be expected to achieve new KPIs (key performance indicators), which will be published in an annual league table.

Due to our extensive knowledge of both careers advice provision and the delivery of this within prisons, we hope to be ideally placed to assist governors with these new targets. In one of the institutions we work in, HMP Glen Parva, we recently made a film about the services we provide, as part of the Careers Inspiration In-Custody project. The passionate and enthusiastic way that prisoners explained how the programme had helped them, reinforced our belief in what a difference having career options can make to a person’s life and future.

Who benefits?

Prisoners aren’t the only ones who benefit either. It goes without saying that the community as a whole is more likely to gain from an ex-offender being in employment but employers themselves also reap the rewards. By engaging with projects like Careers Inspiration In-Custody - where employers visit prisons to give talks or run workshops –businesses can tap into another set of skills and see whether an offender might fit into their organisation.

This project, which Futures delivers along with key partners, is crucial in an economic climate where employers are bemoaning a lack of appropriate skills in the labour market and these visits can lead to offers of work on release. Clive Anderson, Learning Skills and Employment Manager at HMYOI and RC Glen Parva has found that working with Futures on the Careers Inspiration In-Custody project:

“has been invaluable in connecting employers to HMP & YOI Glen Parva, providing life-changing work opportunities for prisoners, which will help to reduce reoffending and with resettlement.”

Increasing the provision of ROTL

The government’s white paper also refers to increasing the provision of ROTL (Release on Temporary Licence) which, at Futures, we are really enthused about. We can see the benefits this would have on prisoners’ long-term career plans and know it would have a positive effect on reducing re-offending. We would be well placed to see offenders all the way through the process too, as we have careers advisers on the outside who can pick them up post-release.

The effect on society

Of course, it goes without saying that when people find themselves in prison, they may have complex issues which careers advice alone can’t resolve. However, where an offender is able to take up this offer of help and use it to work towards a new career, it can be of great benefit, not just to them as an individual but also to society as a whole.

For further information on our in-custody projects and how we can tailor our delivery to the needs of your prison, please contact Emily Jones, Director for People, Improvement and Partnerships at or on 0115 960 1597.