SOCIAL ENTERPRISE- CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE SYSTEM OBSTACLES TO EMPLOYMENT FOR THOSE
IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
By Dr. BETH WEAVER – Strathclyde University
FOREWORD BY TOM JACKSON – Head of Community Justice
One of the key priorities for Community Justice is Building Protective Factors, meaning that we will improve factors evidenced to influence reoffending including employability, education, health and wellbeing and housing.
Much of the Community Justice approach around employability, on a day to day basis, focusses on collaborating with and building a network of services and employability opportunities for people involved in the justice system and contributes to delivering on our Outcome & Performance Improvement Reporting Framework 2018 – 2023, in particular:
- Structural Outcome (SO3) – People have better access to the services they require, including welfare, health and wellbeing, housing and employability.
- Person Centric Outcome PCO1(b) – People develop positive relationships and more opportunities to participate and contribute through education, employment and leisure activities.
- National Outcomes:
- We live our lives safe from crime disorder and danger.
- We realise our full economic potential with more and better employment opportunities for our people.
This work cuts across a wide spectrum from Early & Effective Intervention to those who are more complex, chaotic and embedded in offending behaviour.
When we talk about employability, the scope of that includes a wide range of things from soft skills (self-esteem, confidence building etc.), skills in practical things like C.V. Building, interview skills, support with disclosure etc., reconnecting to education in its widest sense, volunteering and working with different sectors to break down the barrier to and creating tangible employment opportunities.
There are many good examples of this across the partnership that all contribute to better employability and employment outcomes for people with offending backgrounds or indeed, at risk of entering the justice system. You will see many links to these throughout this Annual Report – under different headings.
This speaks to the range of and scope of the work around employability and how it touches on each of the Priority Themes for Community Justice, for example in the sections on Women, Throughcare, Alternatives to Custody etc.
Dr Beth Weaver, University of Strathclyde
In the article COPRODUCING JUSTICE, by Dr.Beth Weaver of Strathclyde University you will see how Social Enterprise fits into this work and the importance that it has in reducing the risk of further offending.
One in six people in the UK have a criminal conviction; a large proportion of people are, therefore, affected by the impacts that contact with the justice system has on access to employment and, relatedly, opportunities to move on from offending.
The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee (2016) recognise that employment significantly reduces reoffending and can lead to other outcomes that can reduce reoffending (e.g. financial security and stable accommodation). Indeed, while the significance of employment to desistance is well established, there are multifarious obstacles to people with convictions accessing and sustaining work.
Some of these barriers include:
- the stigma associated with declaring a criminal record;
- limited education experiences and work experiences and low skills levels;
- willingness of employers to provide those with criminal convictions with job opportunities;
- a mismatch between job needs and skills levels;
- lack of support available to employers.
There is evidence to show that Work Integration Social Enterprises (including social firms and supported businesses) and cooperative structures of employment can circumnavigate some of the systemic obstacles to employment, such as criminal records and employer discrimination that people routinely encounter (see Podcasts from experts in the field).
Social enterprises are businesses that trade for a social purpose, rather than for the enrichment of shareholders or owners. Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) (which are often referred to as ‘Social Firms’ in Scotland) are a type of social enterprise with a specific focus on helping move people experiencing disadvantages in the labour market into employment, whether through job creation within the organisation or other opportunities outside the enterprise.
WISEs attempt to bring unemployed people who have barriers back into society by combining economic activities, social empowerment and training. They do this within a supportive workplace environment where people are valued for their ability, encouraged to participate and supported to achieve. WISEs are ‘social’ to the degree that they focus on both social and work integration of people disadvantaged in the labour market, and they are ‘enterprises’ because they create products and services for local markets through entrepreneurial activity.
The extent of the contribution and potential of social enterprise models of employment in both work generation and integration for people with convictions is not well enough understood, nor recognised. To remedy this, the Coproducing Justice Social Economy Network hosted a programme of knowledge exchange between October 2018-February 2019, funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, Click her to see the Project Report.
The purpose of this programme was to bring people together to share their disparate expertise and coproduce a strategy to support the development and diversification of work integration social enterprises for and with people with convictions. This network brought together international, multi-disciplinary academic and industry leaders in the respective fields of social cooperatives, social enterprise and the social economy; community justice, social work and public health; and economic sociology, criminology, governance and public policy to inform the development of social enterprise and cooperative structures of employment in both work generation and integration for people involved in the justice system, by sharing international research evidence and policy and practice expertise across academic and professional disciplines that have heretofore developed separately.
While we recognise that barriers to employment are complex and inter-related, the social enterprise sector has strong potential to improve the prospects of people with convictions, supporting them to secure and sustain employment. Social enterprise have a strong and growing presence in Scotland, underpinned by progressive policy and strategies, and there are some good practices for a supportive organisational ‘ecosystem’ that could help mitigate some of these barriers.
In particular this includes the role and potential of the Work Integration Social Enterprise (WISE) model, the values and principles that underpin the model, the supportive eco-system for the development of social enterprise in Scotland, including a well-developed architecture of sector support bodies that is respected internationally; the wider policy landscape around employability, community justice, fair work and equalities.
Given the challenges of supporting access to employment, job creation, work integration and inclusive growth, and moving beyond a predominant focus on employability, the social economy sector represents both a meaningful opportunity and viable resource to support both social integration and financial inclusion among those who are justice involved and justice experienced.
We recognise that this means bringing the social enterprise and justice sectors into dialogue to work collaboratively, nationally and locally, to increase opportunities for social enterprises to do more to deliver better employment outcomes for people with convictions and those in the care of the Scottish Prison Service. To address this, we have established the Coproducing Justice National Steering Group.
This group comprises leading academics in Social Enterprise, Criminology and Community Justice as well as senior industry leaders in the fields of Social Enterprise, Community Justice, Local Government, the Scottish Prison Service, and others. Our national remit is to provide strategic direction and leadership to support social enterprise and related social firms in Scotland to make a much greater contribution to addressing labour market inequalities in terms of the breadth and volume of employment opportunities for people with convictions, with the overarching aim of supporting work generation and integration for this demographic. The work of the Coproducing Justice National Steering Group seeks to achieve just this and has already been successful in bringing key actors together and coproducing a three-year strategy to realise this aim.