Helping Bristol’s ex-offenders back into employment

Nina Skubala
Initiative Manager | Business West
17th May 2019

Chief Constable Andy Marsh, Nathan Peacey, Partner at Foot Anstey and James Durie, Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber of Commerce & West of England Initiative gathered 100 business leaders at Foot Anstey Temple Quarters offices to set the challenge of creating an inclusive workplace for Bristol.

The room was astonished to learn from Chief Constable Andy Marsh that crime levels are increasing in Bristol, particularly knife crime. Mayor Marvin Rees then quoted the words of John Savage in our own 2050: High in Hope vision stating that “crime is not good for inward investment” and urged the room of business leaders to take note of the issue.

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens went on to explain that in Bristol, the issue was very much intergenerational with members of the same families entering crime. The room was presented with statistics demonstrating the lack of success prison has on reducing re-offending rates and the high cost of re-offending to society. She asked the room: how can this city break the cycle? Could creating pathways into legitimate work break the cycle and provide opportunities for offenders to leave crime behind?

Eva Hamilton, Founder of Key4Life, appears to have a solution. Key4Life supports and empowers some of the most disenfranchised young men in prison and those at risk of going to prison to secure employment and reintegrate into society on a positive path away from crime. Now in its 6th year, the charity has been supported by Business West and Avon Somerset Police since inception.

Key4Life’s innovative 7-step programme is delivered with the support of businesses and trained volunteer mentors, and is based on three pillars:

• Emotional resilience and unlocking negative behaviours that led to conviction

• Employability support to gain wok experience and secure a job

• On-going support to reintegrate intro the community and sustain employment for lasting change

She introduced the audience to three smart, charismatic and articulate young men, Louis, Rene and Liam. Each of the men described their troubled up bringing – misbehaving at school, victims of bullying, addition and a lack of boundaries which led to them being involved with guns, drugs and violence. They spoke keenly about their Key4Life journeys and their desire to improve themselves and the difficulty in finding an employer that will look beyond their conviction. Rene gained a degree in Sociology, Louie enjoyed a work placement with Willmott Dixon and Liam’s work placement with Yeo Valley has led to a permanent job and even an invitation to meet the Queen. Representatives from Yeo Valley and Willmott Dixon commended the scheme and the placements adding that their staff also benefited from the scheme.

With the demonstration that the Key 4 Life’s method works, with every £1 invested in Key4Life generating £17.06 in social value over 3 years, James Durie invited the room to consider offering 3-day work placements and mentoring to the participants of the Key4Life programme. Organisations offering this opportunity would then be part of the Younited scheme which will be launched later in the summer by Nile Rogers from Chic.

As the event closed, ITV weather presenter, Alex Beresford who recently lost a close family member to knife crime and interrupted a Good Morning Britain debate about Police stop and search power to talk about his lived experience reminded the room that we need to invest in the environment otherwise we will continue to see the same results.

Senior leaders across a host of sectors could be seen to completing the form offering their support to Key4Life in Bristol.  

Any businesses that are willing to offer work-placements or mentoring, please look at:

For advice on employing ex-offenders, please visit

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