For many women coming out of prison, their first thought is getting their children back - and finding a way to support them. Many are single mothers and the main or only breadwinner.
The stark reality is that few will have jobs to go to upon release. Over the years, the government has focused on getting men coming out of prison into work , yet very little thought or resources has been given to women exiting prison. With little or no support to find a job or learn new skills, many women remain trapped in a cycle of poverty and crime.
At Working Chance, we fundamentally believe in the power of work and its ability to transform the lives of women leaving the criminal justice and care systems.
For many of us work is central to our happiness and gives us a sense of identity and personal achievement, and other resources needed for material wellbeing.
For the women we work with, employment means that and so much more. Once in employment, our women become role models, demonstrating to their children and their communities that there is a place for them in mainstream society.
Operating similarly to a recruitment agency, Working Chance helps women find quality, paid work and supports them in moving up the socioeconomic ladder. Hundreds of women come through our doors every year.
Working Chance started from small beginnings - at my kitchen table. A visit to HMP Holloway in 2009 propelled me into action. I overheard a woman say forlornly: “The real punishment starts when you leave prison and no one will give you a job. Without a job I can’t get my children back.”
The majority of our candidates are mothers. Whilst they are in prison, their children go into care or are looked after by a relation. Very few are looked after by their fathers.
Studies have indicated the high chances of children following in their mother’s footsteps. The importance of breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty and offending cannot be overstated.
There’s no doubt that society and employers are more judgemental towards women with convictions. Working Chance aims to shatter these stereotypes. A large part of our work is educating employers to realise that such women are also sisters, daughters, mothers, wives and grandmothers who need a working chance.
The companies we work with are dazzled by our candidates’ resilience and tenacity. They quickly understand the ample and inherent commercial benefits of employing our candidates.
Thanks to support from institutions such as the Smallwood Trust, we are able to give these women and their children hope for a better future - one job at a time.
One of our women recently noted: “The women on my estate can’t believe I’m already going for job interviews when I just got out of prison. They want to know if you’ll help them too.”
Ultimately, helping to change a woman’s life means everything to Working Chance. We fundamentally believe that getting women with convictions into paid work is good for them, their children, society and the economy.