Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, on the 20.11.20 launched the Department of Justice ‘Working to Change – social enterprise and employment strategy 2021- 2023’.
The strategy sets out the department’s direction for supporting employment options for people with convictions by simultaneously working to remove the systemic barriers so that people can make sustainable changes. It builds upon a solid foundation of employment supports already in place across the criminal justice sector and is a collaboration between the Irish Prison Service, The Probation Service and the Department of Justice.
Currently, there are various employment focussed interventions which take place along the criminal justice spectrum for those in custody, those preparing for release and for those engaging in Probation funded projects in the community. In addition, people with convictions can avail of the programmes provided through government agencies which support training, employment and entrepreneurship. The strategy aims to create a flexible, responsive system that ties all of these interventions together in a coherent, strategic and progressive manner with each intervention building on the previous ones, for the benefit of people with convictions and communities.
Speaking at the launch Minister McEntee said:
“This strategy is an important example of what underpins some of the main aims of our criminal justice system – rehabilitation and reintegration through help, support and opportunities for stability.
“We acknowledge the harm that crime causes to individuals, families and communities and we will strive to reduce this harm through the implementation of this strategy. We also know that supporting people through education, training and creating opportunities for employment has been shown to reduce offending and reoffending.
“It is really important to me as Minister, and to those working in our Prison and Probation services, that we create a system that allows for real reintegration in society once a sentence has been served. People should not believe that their future opportunities are all but closed off because they have committed a crime in their past. This is what this strategy is focusing on – giving people the opportunity to engage in a system that gives hope and helps them make positive changes.”
To support the Working to Change Strategy Minister McEntee also announced Dormant Account Funding of €1.5m and the introduction of Socially Responsible Public Procurement Practices:
“A strategy of this nature and magnitude requires resourcing. In collaboration with the Probation Service and the Dormant Accounts Fund, I can officially announce that an expanding Round Three of the ‘Kick-Start Fund’ will be available from Q1 of 2021.
“€1.5m will be available to support the three strategic areas with €1m being made available to social enterprises to encourage employment of skilled people with convictions. €250,000 will be provided to support the establishment of a Scholarship and Internship Fund to allow people with past convictions to reach the minimum qualification levels to apply for Civil and Public Services positions, and finally, €250,000 will be used to support entrepreneurship as a legitimate employment option for people with a criminal record seeking to make sustainable change.
“My department is also committed to working with the Office of Government Procurement to introduce Socially Responsible Public Procurement practices where we make every cent count.
“We will purchase wisely and ensure we get added value for money by where possible including social as well as environmental considerations. To this end, my department is pledging that 10% of all of our public contracts include some form of social benefit clause by the end of this strategy.”
As part of the launch of the Working to Change strategy Director General of the Irish Prison Service, Caron McCaffrey said:
“I welcome the launch of the strategy for social enterprise, entrepreneurship and employment by Minister McEntee today. The implementation of the strategy will greatly increase the opportunities for people with convictions to access paid employment post-release. We know the pathway to distance is a long road and many factors must come into play before an offender can break the cycle of reoffending and create a new non-criminal identity for themselves. I have seen at first-hand the transformation in those in custody who are involved in these initiatives, and witnessed their pride, determination, ambition and hope for the future.”
Mark Wilson, Director of the Probation Service also commented:
“The Probation Service worked with over 16,000 people last year and, through our experience, know that if an offender secures and sustains meaningful employment their chances of reoffending are significantly reduced. Our ‘Working to Change’ strategy will help to reduce crime, reduce the number of victims of crime and increase community safety.
“As Chair of the Steering Committee can I emphasise that we are really interested in hearing from any employer, and others who are interested in our work, as we endeavour to support people who are looking for a new start.”
To support the rollout of the new strategy a dedicated website has been developed. The website will provide transparency on all actions on an on-going basis and act as a point of contact for individuals, social enterprises, employers and entrepreneurs to seek support or getting involved.
Visit www.workingtochange.ie for more information.