Spending time in prison or being convicted of crimes has a negative effect on employment possibilities, with many employers unwilling to take on ex-offenders or unaware that they can, in most cases, do so. This means that self-employment is a viable option for many people who are leaving the criminal justice system.
Startup is a small charity which provides support for these people in the form of business planning support, Startup Now days (where prisoners can present their ideas to expert panels), mentoring, access to business resources and respected business advisors, designing and printing of promotional material, and workshops, clinics and drop-in sessions. In many cases, it also offers grants along with the non-financial support. If the service users find that self-employment is not for them, the charity also helps them find training or employment.
One of the most innovative elements of Startup’s approach is that it begins in the prison, and continues seamlessly afterwards for up to a year. It also has a dedicated programme for women ex-offenders.
The charity has helped well over 1,000 people since its beginnings in 2006 and achieved a re-offending rate of less than 5%. In comparison, around two-thirds of prisoners re-offend within two years of their release. For its women’s programme, 229 women have been supported into self-employment and only one of them has re-offended.