When giv­ing some­thing back helps firms thrive

Linda ste­wart talks to Jonny Mckim, who runs a so­cial en­ter­prise at Hy­de­bank Wood, and Gareth Kirk of Belfast leisure cen­tre op­er­a­tor GLL

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page -

We speak to Jonny Mckim, project man­ager of a ground-break­ing so­cial en­ter­prise that op­er­ates be­hind the walls of Hyde Bank Wood Col­lege

‘We don’t turn any­body away, no mat­ter what their crime was’

Jonny Mckim (30) al­ways thought he would be a teacher when he was grow­ing up, but he ended up in­side. Not as a pris­oner, how­ever, but as the project man­ager of a ground-break­ing so­cial en­ter­prise that op­er­ates be­hind the heav­ily guarded walls of Hy­de­bank Wood Col­lege in south Belfast.

Mugshots is a so­cial en­ter­prise that pro­duces printed and pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als as part of em­ploy­a­bil­ity train­ing pro­gramme Quest, an Ad­van­tage project funded by the Big Lot­tery Fund.

Jonny es­ti­mates that for of­fend­ers who go through the one-year scheme, the typ­i­cal re-of­fend­ing rate for those getting out of prison is re­duced from about 70% to 17% — an in­cred­i­ble suc­cess rate.

The south Belfast man trained as a youth worker, but his di­rec­tion changed when he went on a one-year place­ment to Aus­tralia, where he worked in a res­i­den­tial care cen­tre for at-risk young peo­ple whose par­ents couldn’t look af­ter them be­cause of their ex­treme be­hav­iour.

“It led me into the po­si­tion I am in now as I have ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in a sim­i­lar fa­cil­ity,” Jonny says.

“Our day-to-day work is to de­liver em­ploy­a­bil­ity train­ing to young men who are cur­rently in cus­tody and that is fa­cil­i­tated through our so­cial en­ter­prise called Mugshots.

“They re­ceive em­ploy­a­bil­ity train­ing and then they work in Mugshots, which is a print­ing and pro­mo­tional items busi­ness run as a so­cial en­ter­prise.

“The money made by the busi­ness is in­vested into the busi­ness and the young peo­ple who we work with.”

Some of the money goes into a bur­sary, which the young men on the course can ap­ply to af­ter they are re­leased.

“They can ap­ply for any items that can re­duce the risk of re­of­fend­ing by getting them into em­ploy­ment, ed­u­ca­tion train­ing or self-em­ploy­ment,” Jonny says.

“It helps the guys to start up busi­nesses, helps them to get work wear. For one, it helped with driv­ing lessons, or helped to get emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion and sup­port for some of the guys, or course tu­ition fees.”

There are 24 places on the course and its wait­ing list is al­ways busy. “We don’t turn any­one away. We take any guys, no mat­ter what their crimes may be,” Jonny says.

The course in­cludes 11 mod­ules on em­ploy­a­bil­ity, help­ing the par­tic­i­pants learn what it’s like to find work and be­come a more pro­duc­tive mem­ber of so­ci­ety.

“It’s ba­sic things that all we all take for granted — prob­lem-solv­ing, work­ing as part of a team, plan­ning and or­gan­is­ing your­selves — but the main thing we work on is the at­ti­tude,” Jonny ex­plains.

“A lot of th­ese guys have never had any ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing within a work­place and, for many, their par­ents have never been in a work­place.

“We treat it as a work­place from day one — they show up on time, they take their breaks when breaks are sched­uled, they work as a team.

“Their be­hav­iour and es­pe­cially lan­guage is kept in check — there is a no-swear­ing rule in our of­fice.

“It’s a sym­bol — it’s not just swear­ing, it’s about hav­ing re­spect for your­self and peo­ple around you.

“For a lot of them that is the first time some­one has con­fronted them about that.

“As soon as the guys make the con­nec­tion that this is about re­spect­ing your­selves, there are no is­sues there. We re­spect them and we ex­pect re­spect in re­turn.”

Jonny says he has worked with young men aged 19 who have been in prison eight or nine times.

“The fig­ures are fright­en­ing. The re­of­fend­ing rate in Hy­de­bank is around 70% among young men getting out of cus­tody who are back within a year.

“There’s some­thing dras­ti­cally wrong in our view,” he adds.

“But of the 30 guys who came through our pro­gramme, our for­ward track­ing sug­gests we have re­duced the re­of­fend­ing rate to 17%.

“Hav­ing work and hav­ing a mean­ing­ful, pos­i­tive thing to do when you’re out of prison is a fac­tor in not going back to prison.

“Some have gone into work on re­lease, some have gone into ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing and some have even launched their own busi­nesses.

“Over five years, eight in to­tal have gone on to start their own busi­ness. There’s one guy who set up a bar­ber’s, a cou­ple of me­chan­ics and one who set up a build­ing main­te­nance com­pany.

“Th­ese are young guys who, tra­di­tion­ally, that would never have crossed their mind. They wouldn’t have had the be­lief in them­selves to do some­thing like that.

“Start­ing your own busi­ness is a re­ally good op­tion when you come out of prison as you’re not re­ly­ing on some­one to give you a break. It’s all down to com­mit­ment.

“But the main rea­son we do this is the pre­ven­tion of more vic­tims of crime.”

The busi­ness also gives back to the com­mu­nity, with the par­tic­i­pants choos­ing a project to work on each year, in­clud­ing help­ing peo­ple who have been vic­tims of crime in the past.

The next stage is to open a work­shop in Car­rick­fer­gus at the end of Septem­ber, sim­i­lar to the one in Hy­de­bank.

“The first three months are very dif­fi­cult for guys when they are re­leased, es­pe­cially when they have tight con­di­tions of re­lease, so hav­ing some­thing to en­gage in is very im­por­tant to them,” Jonny says.

The work­shop will be open to any­one re­leased from cus­tody, of­fer­ing a three-month work place­ment with help to de­cide the next step. “The cost of a cus­to­dial place is £68,000 a year and, if two guys don’t go back to prison, this pro­gramme has paid for it­self,” Jonny says.

Hav­ing work and a pos­i­tive thing to do when you’re out of prison is a fac­tor in not going back

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit the en­ter­prise’s web­site at www.mugshot­sprint.com.

Johnny Mckim with mugs pro­duced through the Quest scheme

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