I recently attended an event run by Virgin focused on the need to offer better futures to people who have been in the criminal justice system.
The event started by looking at what is needed to prevent young people at risk from getting involved in criminal activity.
It then went on to look at how we prepare people in prison for life outside - not just any old life but a life with employment, a supportive community, a sense of purpose and belonging.
Sir Richard Branson opened the event. His key message was that no one would want to be judged on the worst moment of their life. For people whose actions result in a criminal record this happens too often. Even when the conviction is spent, the criminal record closes many doors and limits life chances.
The event featured charities and social enterprises who are working to improve the life chances of ex-offenders.
Firstly RECLAIM, an award winning social action and youth leadership charity which works to secure the best possible opportunities for working class young people to ensure that, as they grow up, they have choices and a vision for their future, reducing the chances of them ending up in the criminal justice system.
Second, Freedom Bakery, a social enterprise artisan bakery based at HMP Low Moss near Glasgow, which trains a small team of people in custody - developing skills and providing a smooth transition to the world of work.
Thirdly, Working Chance, a charity dedicated to supporting women with convictions to gain sustainable quality jobs.
For me, the most powerful part of the day was hearing the story of one woman, previously in prison and now in a management position at a retail company. She loves her role and has climbed a ladder, proving herself at every stage. Given a second chance she has seized it and built something great.
At Virgin Money Foundation we fund charities in the North East of England who are working to support ex-offenders into jobs and positive futures.
One young man supported by one of our funded organisations, Cornerstone, spoke of the impact the work has had:
“It’s hard to explain how being trusted changes you. I could never be trusted before and I didn’t feel like I deserve to be trusted. Now, I deserve trust and I’m given trust. When people trust you, you feel self-worth. To have someone trust you, it’s massive it really is.”
Nancy Doyle, Executive Director