Sue Ryder opens doors to business community

ON Monday 28 November, business leaders from Peterborough are invited to take part in an innovative and inspirational ‘Open Doors’ visit as part of The Prince’s Seeing is Believing programme.  The Thorpe Hall Hospice, which is owned and operated by the Sue Ryder charity, will be the venue for an eye-opening morning of presentations and discussions; exploring the ways in which businesses in Peterborough can engage with the ex-offender agenda through closer working relationships with the Prison and Probation services.

The visit, which starts at 10am, is being organised by Business in the Community (BITC) as part of the Right Step project.  BITC is a business-led charity which works to advise, support and challenge businesses to be responsible, sustainable and successful.  The charity, in partnership with the National Offender Management Service and the European Social Fund, is delivering the Right Step project to help businesses in the East of England; linking employers with their local Prison and Probation services in a way that will benefit both their firm and the wider community.  The aim is to reduce re-offending by offering ’real life’ employability support to serving prisoners and ex-offenders.

The visit will provide attendees with the opportunity to find out how Sue Ryder has engaged with the ex-offender agenda, helping them to understand more about the charity’s award winning ‘Prison Volunteer Programme’.  In the last year, in the East of England alone, 34 offenders serving custodial sentences and 137 on probation or community sentences have volunteered in 30 of Sue Ryder’s shops.  They have provided 825 volunteer hours a week, saving the charity nearly £260,000 – enough to cover the cost of five beds in one of its neurological care centres for a year.

Carol Davis is Prison Volunteer Programme Co-ordinator at Sue Ryder. ”We work with around 42 prisons across the UK as well as the Probation service. By providing work-based skills, we aim to increase employment prospects for offenders.  Helping people to find employment is a major factor contributing to reducing re-offending and generates a potential saving to society of around £40,000 a year for each person who stays out of prison.

“The Business in the Community Right Step project is acting as a real catalyst in our region,” Carol continues. “Events such as local employer forums and free training days provide opportunities for employers to learn about ways in which they can engage with the Prison and Probation services, but also a platform for raising concerns and utilising the experience of others to address potential issues.”

Mike Brophy is regional director of Business in the Community in the East of England:  “We recently commissioned an independent survey of business leaders in the East of England and 45% of them said they would be put off short-listing a skilled and experienced candidate if they knew they had been in prison and/or had a criminal record,” he says.  “These businesses could be dramatically reducing their pool of good people and, in these difficult trading times, that puts them at a disadvantage compared to their competitors; 17.1% of the UK working population has a criminal record. In addition, by not giving ex-offenders the chance to compete on a level playing field when it comes to training, work and volunteering opportunities, employers are contributing to one of the most challenging issues that our society and economy faces: the high cost to us all of re-offending.”

“We hope that this unique Open Doors event will enable business leaders from Peterborough to see how engaging with the ex-offender agenda can help them fulfil their diversity and community involvement responsibilities, as well as bringing benefits to their businesses,” continues Mike Brophy.

It is essential to register if you would like to attend the Open Doors event on Monday 28 November.  For more information, please contact Debbie Longhurst on 07718 793 880 or email