How to solve Gloucestershire's job gap?
By Simon Hacker | 5th May 2023
Employment headaches in Gloucestershire could be banished, if employers are willing to take on prisoners to fill the jobs gap.
That's the message coming from a new report from the Centre for Social Justice think-tank – and it looks to have the support of a key government minister.
In a foreword to the report, Prisons Minister Damian Hinds said there has "never been a better opportunity" for businesses to "unlock the potential" in UK prisons.
If the findings are translated into legislation, Gloucestershire employers could gain access to a new labour pool and the move is being seen as an opportunity to reduce the issue of skills and labour famine: as of August 2022, the House of Commons recorded that 16.8% of businesses say they have vacancies they cannot fill.
In Gloucestershire, the county council said its own HR resourcing would receive a budget boost of £212,000 towards solving recruitment issues this year, with deputy leader Lynden Stowe saying the challenge is "a pretty serious problem in quite a lot of our departments".
The scheme being mulled would see thousands of prisoners temporarily released in a bid to not only fill vacancies but also reduce reoffending rates.
Damian Hinds said: "There are over a million vacancies in the UK. So, there has never been a better opportunity for businesses to unlock the potential in our prisons. Getting more prisoners into work really is a win-win — it will cut crime by reducing reoffending and grow our economy to the benefit of us all."
About one in four of the 50,000 people released from prison each year currently find a job within six months, research shows. Reducing this timespan, according to the Centre for Social Justice, would cut crime rates.
Joe Shalam, spokesman, said: "It wasn't that long ago that the numbers [freed on temporary licence] exceeded 11,000. There's no reason why with stringent safeguards it couldn't go beyond this level again given the huge demand from employers to fill roles."
The government is believed to be now considering recommendations, including releasing more prisoners on licence to take up jobs and allowing greater access to vocational qualifications.
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