Getting ex-offenders into work

HACRO is helping ex-offenders back to work with a number of initiatives

BBO Strive (Building Better Opportunities – Support and Transition Routes into Volunteering and Employment).


Since October 2016 we have been a delivery partner for Building better Opportunities, which is managed by Herts County Council and jointly funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund.

We have been working with Hertfordshire Constabulary and BeNCH CRC (Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Community Rehabilitation Company) on a programme which aims to assist the rehabilitation of prolific offenders.

17 Mentees have not reoffended

We are referred the hardest to reach cases; those who do not want to engage with the police and the probation service and we work with a small number who are responsible for a very large proportion of acquisitive crime – Burglary and Shoplifting – in Hertfordshire – so of the 34 people we worked with last year, 21 were classified as “persistent and prolific offenders” and 18 had not worked for at least 5 years.

Our model is based on a mentoring programme and provides practical support in helping with employment as well as health and housing needs.

HACRO has a specialist mentor, Tony Franklin (himself an ex-offender), Tony uses a mix of approaches which includes One-to-one work – helps to overcome the basic barriers, workouts at a boxing gym help people to de-stress and get some exercise and Anger Management courses for others.

6 mentees are no longer classed as prolific offenders

As they progress, participants are encouraged to volunteer for work projects, building garden furniture, clearing ground, basic construction. Taster sessions in plumbing and tiling, run by a local business give a glimpse of what skilled work involves.

This involvement is voluntary and the participants have to show that they want to do jobs which help the community. Invariably, Tony uses the group activity to mentor the team members and iron out personal problems.

And the results are encouraging – from the 34 people we worked with –

6 are no longer designated as persistent and prolific offenders

17 have not re-offended at all since coming on the programme

6 have level 2 qualifications in Practical Horticulture

2 have qualifications in basic Maths and English.

5 have moved into employment

We are also working closely with Blue Sky, the employment agency for ex-offenders, and refer clients to them for 6 month contracts.


Tony has found me a job working for Watford council doing gardening and training. This has helped me better my life and no one believed me but Tony


I have now got a job doing grounds maintenance and learning new skills. I would like to thank Tony from HACRO and this project for finding me the job and giving me the chance to prove myself for work as I have never had a proper paid job.


This project has kept me busy and out of trouble. When I first met Tony I wasn’t getting out of my flat and he helped me improve my mental health plus meeting new people. I am now able to volunteer at Emmaus on my own. I really enjoyed the plumbing and tiling taster days as I learned a lot. I would like to say thank you to HACRO and the project for changing my life. I’ve not been re-offending since I started the project.



Is a work-readiness programme designed to be part of offenders’ sentence in the community and is located in the Stevenage Probation premises. HACRO has been working closely with statutory agencies such as Workers Education Association (WEA), Emmaus to develop the programme which has three basic elements:

  1. The core syllabus developing an understanding of individual skills and the relevance to the world of work.
  2. Vocational courses offering specific job-related training. The first of these is Kitchen skills. To be followed by Cycle maintenance, woodwork and practical horticulture / grounds maintenance and sports science.
  3. Employer Relationships developing ties with companies to consider work experience or employment for people with a criminal record.

We focus not only on the normal (CV creation, work skills, job opportunities and interview techniques) but believe we are different because we include: –

  • self-awareness
  • self-esteem
  • personal wellbeing
  • goal setting,
  • financial capability
  • customer service
  • understanding what employers expect of their employees.

Throughout the workshops our service users complete a series of questionnaires to help them focus on where they are in life, what motivates them, and what they may need to do to progress. Regular reviews are also carried out to track their progress. We provide a workbook which comprises a series of thought-provoking questionnaires and exercises which relate to the session topics.

Our tutors are supportive and non-judgemental and create an environment in which people are encouraged to contribute to a wide range of discussions to help them focus objectively on their current work situations and what they can do to improve their chances of gaining rewarding and sustainable employment.

16 three hour sessions (8 theory/personal development and 8 practical/vocational) are run each week. Building on the topics covered in the theory sessions, service users undertake a vocational kitchen skills programme covering safely preparing and cooking 7 healthy and economical dishes (which also ties in with the financial capability strand). We teach how to follow recipes, how to work with and support others in the group, and learn about food hygiene and health & safety in the kitchen. This leads to a City & Guilds Level 2 qualification in Basic Food Hygiene which can help service users apply for jobs within the hospitality sector.

Feedback continues to be very positive and the workshops are evolving to meet individual needs:

“Therapeutic and self-awareness; learning about myself; got me thinking about my future plans; sharing our motive; great tutors.”

“Being confident and ready to face the world in difficult circumstances.”

“More confident about job. More information about CV.”

“Communication and informative; I learned from discussions; thought provoking; learning how to talk publicly; informative.”

We are grateful to the management of BeNCH and the NPS for their support and we hope to continue to work closely with them so that WorkAbility becomes embedded in the rehabilitation agenda for Hertfordshire.

We are also grateful for the support we have received from the VINCI Foundation who not only gave a grant which enabled us to buy kitchen equipment and a second set of laptop computers, but through their subsidiary, Ringway, are supporting their staff to help with the delivery of aspects of our courses and will be considering some of our participants for employment.

Barista Training

HACRO trains prisoners to become baristas while working in coffee bar of the visits halls of prisons, they gain valuable work experience and a recognized qualification to increase their employment prospects on release. More information here.

Business Ventures

Volunteers with business backgrounds work (through HACRO) as mentors at HMP The Mount on the Education Department’s Business Ventures programme. The course helps in planning for employment on release, particularly self-employment. This involves research and discussing and implementing Business Planning. More Information here.