Sue Ryder opens doors to business community

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PETERBOROUGH business leaders took part in a recent innovative and inspirational Open Doors visit as part of The Prince’s Seeing is Believing programme.

The Thorpe Hall Hospice, owned and operated by the Sue Ryder charity, was the venue for a number of presentations and discussions exploring the ways in which local businesses can engage with the ex-offender agenda through closer working relationships with the prison and probation services.

The visit was organised by business-led charity Business in the Community (BITC) as part of the Right Step project, set up to help ex-offenders get jobs, and hosted by Sue Ryder.

The BITC, in partnership with the National Offender Management Service and the European Social Fund, is delivering the Right Step project to help businesses in the East of England; linking employers with their local prison and probation services in a way that will benefit both their firm and the wider community. The aim is to reduce re-offending by offering “real life” employability support to serving prisoners and ex-offenders.

Guests at Thorpe Hall were given the opportunity to find out how Sue Ryder has engaged with the ex-offender agenda, helping them to understand more about the charity’s award-winning Prison Volunteer Programme. In the last year, in the East of England alone, 34 offenders serving custodial sentences and 137 on probation or community sentences have volunteered in 30 of Sue Ryder’s shops. They have provided 825 volunteer hours a week, saving the charity nearly £260,000 – enough to cover the cost of five beds in one of its neurological care centres for a year.

Sue Ryder store manager Martin Elliott, an ex-offender himself, shared his experiences of having the opportunity to gain valuable work experience at the charity.

Carol Davis, who is prison volunteer programme co-ordinator at Sue Ryder, said: ”We work with about 42 prisons across the UK as well as the Probation service. By providing work-based skills, we aim to increase employment prospects for offenders. Helping people to find employment is a major factor contributing to reducing re-offending and generates a potential saving to society of about £40,000 a year for each person who stays out of prison.”

“The Business in the Community Right Step project is acting as a real catalyst in our region,” added Carol. “Events such as local employer forums and free training days provide opportunities for employers to learn about ways in which they can engage with the Prison and Probation services, but also a platform for raising concerns and utilising the experience of others to address potential issues.”