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Offering Startup Hope to ex-offenders - Startacus interviews Startup Now

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by Startacus Admin

Chris Grayling Probation Service Lets start by offering up some perspective...At the time of writing, UK government minister, Chris Grayling had just that week proposed to semi privatise the Probation Service.

Startacus that very same week had had a very timely interview with Juliet Hope, Chief Executive of Startup Now, a charity that had achieved amazing success of supporting ex-offenders into Self Employment.

So with this in mind, it was interesting to find out about a charity that offers hope to ex-offenders. Results that one would hope would impress said Government minister Chris Grayling...

So, Check this for a statistic - the re-offender rates for Startup Now clients (ex-offenders) is 5%, compared to the National Average of around 65%.

Pretty impressive! At Startacus we had always keen to find out why this startup program was so successful, what government support this scheme has been given, and in turn what advice (and hope) Juliet Hope of Startup Now could give self starters everywhere in making that transition into self employment....

Fantastic re-offending statistics with regards to the prisoners who go through the Startup program. Why does your program have such an impact?

startup nowThe overall re-offending rate for Startup clients is under 5% but it’s the women in our Startupnow for Women project who are the real superstars, still zero re-offending achieved by those who have gone onto become self-employed, now in our third year! Looking at feedback from our successful clients over recent years, it seems 3 reasons for the success are: the high quality business advice, the quick ‘follow through’ from prison release and immediate support given and last, but not least, access to Startup’s peer mentoring network. This provides drop in sessions, workshops, and one on one support when needed.

Over 80,000 prisoners are released from prison every year, and yet you have been able to make a difference to a 1000 so far and 230 have gone into self-employment - Could you imagine this program being rolled out more mainstream and how much support are you given from Government?

This has always been our primary aim, that Startup should be offered to everyone in prison, and those recently released, interested in becoming self-employed. We believe passionately that self-employment is a viable option for ex-offenders, who make good use of training/education received in prison, find it easier to be their own boss and it can provide an excellent way to re-integrate into family life and the local community.

Charitable trusts are currently funding Startup and this year the Big Lottery Fund is supporting delivery of the Startupnow for Women project. We sadly don’t have funding to support the programme for men even though the demand we’re seeing from prisons, and individuals leaving prison, is higher than ever.

We currently don’t receive any funding from the Government, although have been pursuing ways to do so for years. We have found, up until now, that the contracts for work with ex-offenders is normally given to the prime contractors. They always seem to have little interest or money left to allocate out to smaller specialist organisations actually delivering the programmes that work.

The Government has just set out proposals for reforming the delivery of offender services in the community which could have a huge impact on charities such as Startup. Let’s just hope they follow through with their promises as this could be very exciting, finally involving the voluntary sector in delivery of the programmes getting the results.
startup now

Do you come up against any opposition to the program because of the support you offer specifically to prisoners?

There will always be people who believe that there are others more worthy of receiving support than ex-offenders. Startup’s inspirational peer mentors who have managed to successfully turn their lives around, are helping to change this perception. If we can’t get someone to accept that everyone deserves a second chance in life, they should at least accept Startup’s compelling financial savings to the taxpayer.

The Startup model uses £7,500 to advise and support 4 ex-offenders for a year, with at least 1 going on to become self-employed. This compares with the £40,000 plus it costs the taxpayer to keep someone in prison for a year and that’s not taking into account the hugely significant impact that is made on the ex-offender’s family and the community.

Prisoner or otherwise, what's your best piece of advice for someone thinking of starting a business or being self employed in 2013!

Has to be thinking about the client and the market that the business delivers to. Even though you might have a great idea, if you’re not delivering what the client wants at a competitive price, however hard you work at it, it is going to an uphill struggle.

Also, if things aren’t going right, then ask for help sooner rather than later. So many times new businesses can be put back on track if the problems are identified soon enough. Startup’s peer mentors and business advisers support our clients for at least the first year after setting up a new business which is key to their success.

If you liked this prison themed startup post, you might also want to read about The Last Mile Programme - finding hope in prison

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Published on: 17th January 2013

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