Within twelve months of release, 60% of offenders will have re-offended. This has an estimated cost to the UK each year of £13 billion – and an incalculable waste of human potential. Having a job is the single biggest factor in reducing re-offending, yet 75% of prisoners are released to unemployment.
At HCT Group, we want to be a part of the solution. Our new pilot project – Drive On – aims to create a path to sustainable employment for ex-offenders as London red bus drivers. The project is a partnership between HCT Group and Blue Sky, part of The Forward Trust, an award-winning social enterprise.
Blue Sky recruits and selects the participants, ensuring that they are appropriate for the programme. The HCT Group Learning Centre, with its extensive experience of working with some of the hardest-to-reach learners in education, provides the theory and practical elements of bus driver training, leading to the participants gaining their full licence.
After their training, participants then take part in the standard induction and review period of any other new driver recruit – albeit with ongoing management support and guidance from Blue Sky. At the end of their three month review period, they are confirmed in post as London
Drive On is a pilot-in-progress with a small group of ex-offenders. The idea is to assess the:
- cohort’s suitability for driving roles
- effectiveness of our teaching and induction when working with the cohort
- practicality of scaling up the model.
Learning from the pilot
With most of the group now through the programme and on the road, we have been able to draw some conclusions.
Tried and tested
The ex-offender cohort faces significant barriers to learning. However, our Learning Centre has developed teaching, learning and wraparound support strategies over many years that effectively engage hard-to-reach learners – so these barriers have not proved to be a material issue for the Drive On programme.
The expertise in and empathy for working with the ex-offender cohort provided by Blue Sky has been invaluable for the programme.
The training programme has been conducted over a longer period than normal industry benchmarks – a similar volume of training but at a lower intensity. We are evaluating how best to balance the learning needs of the cohort with the need to move learners through the programme at a faster pace.
The right stuff
All the way through the programme – from initial training to active employment – the attitude and attendance of the cohort has been very good, indistinguishable from an intake of non-offender trainees.
Those members of the cohort that are currently employed and driving have been providing a level of customer service and driving quality directly on a par with other drivers at this stage in their development.
Drive On remains a pilot-in-progress, yet the evidence to date is compelling. We believe the programme represents a legitimate and effective pathway to stable, rewarding employment for ex-offenders.
As the Drive On programme develops, we will implement the learning from the pilot. However, it has shown no real barriers to scaling-up significantly, should funding permit.