Lincolnshire

LAT: Proposed tax breaks for businesses employing ex-offenders are ‘not enough’

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Lincolnshire Action Trust is calling for the government to do more to support employers who hire ex-offenders following a report published by the Work & Pensions Committee.

The recent Support for ex-offenders report suggests employers should be offered reduced national insurance contributions (NICs) for actively recruiting ex-offenders.

But Christina Hall, Director of Operations at Lincolnshire Action Trust (LAT), believes that although this is a positive development, additional support is needed to help businesses overcome the barriers of employing ex-offenders.

“As part of our employability support, we have been working with firms across Lincolnshire since 2000 to help them prepare for and successfully recruit ex-offenders.

“This has included addressing concerns over re-offending, the reaction of their current workforce and the legislation around interviewing and asking about someone’s prior convictions.

“However, employers should find it encouraging to see the growing list of big businesses that actively recruit ex-offenders, including First Direct, The Co-Op, Marks & Spencer and Virgin, which is a clear indication that it is beneficial to employers.”

Re-offending currently costs the taxpayer around £15bn a year, so the report’s proposal to cut national insurance contributions is an attractive incentive that could have far-reaching benefits, LAN believes.

As well as cutting re-offending rates, LAT’s own research has shown that securing a meaningful job gives offenders an opportunity to become reliable, hard-working and loyal staff members, which Christina puts down to being given a second chance to prove themselves.

The Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee report also highlights that employing ex-offenders can help companies tackle skills shortages, which are most significant in the manufacturing, wholesale, retail and construction industries.

In addition, government research into businesses that have employed people from disadvantaged backgrounds – including those with a criminal record – found that almost half saw a direct positive financial impact and 90% experienced improved staff engagement and capability.

Christina added that “It’s clear that the government is taking a positive step in encouraging businesses to think differently about employing ex-offenders, and that should be applauded.

“But we need to ensure that additional support is available to all businesses to help them establish good practices and overcome any challenges to ensure this initiative, if it becomes available, works out for the benefit of employers and ex-offenders.”