Ex-prisoners who’re at risk of being long-term beneficiaries often find it incredibly hard to find and keep a job.
That’s why Corrections and the Ministry of Social Development have been working together since November 2016 to provide them with more comprehensive and long-term support.
The Supporting Offenders into Employment three-year trial aims to ensure prisoners with more complex needs have the right assistance to manage their barriers to employment such as problems with drugs and alcohol, work skills, and literacy and numeracy.
The trial has two different streams – a contracted service in Canterbury offered by Workwise and The Salvation Army, and an in-house intensive case management service with Work and Income case managers in 10 regions around the country.
Currently, 223 people are enrolled with the in-house service, which has a capacity of 400 clients.
Ninety-nine of the 223 clients are now working. They’re receiving help with education, financial, health and housing needs – not to mention support to get a job!
We talked to Corrections Senior Case Manager Deve Simpson who’s been working with prisoners on the trial at Spring Hill Corrections Facility with Ministry of Social Development’s Intensive Client Support Manager Kay Te Huia.
How’s the trial going at Spring Hill?
Extremely well. Our case managers have a great relationship with Kay, and the men have been responding positively when interviewed for the trial. Out of the 39 people released from prison Kay has been working with, 20 now have a job.
Do prisoners have to meet certain criteria to take part?
Yes. We consider prisoners who’re being released to one of the trial locations, on parole or conditions, and are at risk of receiving a benefit from Work and Income long term. Because there are limited spaces, not all prisoners who meet the criteria will be able to receive the service.
How do Corrections and the Ministry work together?
After a prisoner is identified, Kay and I meet with him to go through what the service offers and discuss his pathway forward and commitment to it. Kay takes over from there, and we all keep in touch as we work towards his release. Kay continues working with him in the community providing support for up to a year. Closely linked with this is the important relationship with the probation officer managing their parole conditions.
What assistance does the offender receive?
They receive support to apply for a benefit, which is a huge relief as they’re able to deal with any pre-benefit activities prior to release. They get help setting up a bank account and finding health services. They also receive education and training assistance to move into employment, and ongoing support and incentives to stay in a job.
Can you tell us about one of your successes?
Mark* has done exceptionally well. He was introduced to the in-house service in April last year. Mark was happy to be selected and spoke to us about the plans he had for his release on 1 May.
Mark met with Kay in the weeks before his release and got a furnished flat very soon after his release – a massive achievement as he’d been in prison nearly five years. He was able to pay for some of his move-in costs such as food and rent in advance with money provided through the trial. He’d also been granted the Jobseeker Support benefit on release. Later in May, Mark got a job with a construction firm and received Transition to Work help with his work-related costs.
Mark proudly passed his restricted driver’s licence and bought a car to carry his work gear. He was assisted with work clothing, petrol, and bridging finance to get to his first pay.
Having transferred cities, Mark has been in steady employment for nine months and is living with his partner and children. He’s extremely grateful for the help and support he received, and says, “It’s everything I ever wanted.”
*Not his real name.
Extra support for extra challenges
Supporting Offenders into Employment targets prisoners who’re at risk of being long-term beneficiaries, but this isn’t the only challenge they face. Many have low literacy and numeracy and therefore require education and training (65% of the general prisoner population has low literacy and numeracy skills), and many also have a mental health or substance abuse disorder (62% of the general prisoner population have had either a mental health or substance abuse disorder within the last 12 months).
This Way for Work
Corrections has its own offender recruitment service. This Way for Work is a two-year pilot supporting offenders into stable employment (offenders don’t need to have been long-term beneficiaries to be eligible). Thirteen offender recruitment consultants work with offenders and employers around the country.