A shopping centre’s project giving serving prisoners work experience and training has today won ministerial praise.

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Chapelfield Shopping Centre’s custody and community programme aims to bring offenders back into the community and secure them permanent jobs before their sentences have finished.

It is also hoped this idea, in partnership with HMP Norwich, will reduce crime by cutting reoffending rates. Out of the 122 prisoners who have taken part in the project, Chapelfield officials say more than 90 have secured jobs while only 3.2pc - around four people - have reoffended since their release. The national reoffending rate within 12 months of release is 27pc, according to government figures.

Nick Hurd, cabinet office minister for civil society, visited the project during a tour of Norwich today, which included separate trips to see young volunteers at YMCA Norfolk and Norwich Dragons Hockey Club.

Mr Hurd presented Chapelfield with the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award for its endeavours and hailed the programme as a “stepping stone to employment” for prisoners.

He said it was important to break down the stigma surrounding inmates, which made it harder for them to be offered opportunities to prevent them from reoffending.

He said: “It was brilliant - it works. What struck me is I met prisoners at each stage of the journey, from one who arrived on Monday as a volunteer to someone being employed full-time to supervise teams at front of house.

“I’ve seen the journey and the value of giving a prisoner a chance to work, to do a normal working day, to feel normal, to feel valued and develop skills.

“It’s one of the great scandals that two-thirds of prisoners come out and reoffend within two years. I don’t think it’s rocket science - they need jobs to come out to. They need schemes like this.”

Praise was also reserved for Davina Tanner, general manager of Chapelfield Shopping Centre.

Mr Hurd said: “We are looking to see what makes it work well - the leadership and vision of Davina. She is running a shopping centre - she didn’t have to get involved in this at all.”

Mr Hurd also took in YMCA Norfolk, in Queens Road, to look at the National Citizen Service in Norfolk. Around 120 young people aged between 16 and 18 have signed-up to take part in the programme, which aims to develop their skills.

A group of 15, among the first 59 to sign-up, are tidying up and creating a social area at the YMCA building as part of a four-week programme, which included planning their project.

Youth worker Lee Daniels, 22, of Heartsease, Norwich, said: “We’ve had a lot of young people from troubled backgrounds and they have forgotten about that and got on with the project and got involved. Their confidence levels have gone up.”

Arrianne White, 16, of Martham, said she had conquered her fears of swimming and heights during the project.

Ricky Berrisford, 16, of Gorleston, added: “I’ve found it really enjoyable and I’ve got to meet loads of new people. It’s not only that but something to do - I would normally stay indoors over the summer.”

Mr Hurd later visited the Norwich Dragons Hockey Club to mark their involvement in the Join in Local Sport project. This is encouraging people to turn up and help their community sports facilities over the weekend of August 18 and 19.

6 comments

  • Nick Hurd is a hypocrite. On the same day he is praising prisoners picking litter and cleaning in Chapelfield, down the road at Remploy, disabled workers are striking against the Governments wholesale shut down of 26 production facilities. And overhead we can hear the sound of fighter jets readying for another expensive campign for oil, somewhere in the middle east. They always have money for war, those banks with off shore accounts will make sure of it.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

  • I thought there would be comments about "the decent people who can't find jobs" There IS work out there if you look, my 16 year old Son officially left school on 30 June and started work on 01 July. There is too much laziness "back trouble" and being better off on social in this country. Good for the prisoners that they want to try and rehabilitate. What would you rather, no-one employ them and they revert back to crime? Maybe not if you became a victim of it. Give them a chance!!!!!

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    Lesa

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

  • yes-decent folk go to the back of the queue. places get cash for hiring convicts and people with addictions.

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    bookworm

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

  • Wonderful - now you need to go to prison to find a job!!?? What about all the people that cannot find work?

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    Geffy1

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

  • Well done Nick Hurd and well done Chapelfield and Davina Tanner. Jobs are the key to cutting re-offending. Employers only recruit the person who best fits the job on merit and it is widely seen as good practice to make suitable risk assessments of previous convictions. It's significantly harder for people with convictions to get jobs and in this difficult labour market it has become even harder. #RecruitWithConviction

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    richard thomson

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

  • I'm afraid it is rocket science Mr Hurd. If there are not enough jobs to go round then a lot of people are going to be disappointed and sorting that out is going to be as difficult as getting a first in astrophysics. As for going to see someone who has learnt not to be frightened of swimming. How is that going to help her find a job unless she is going to get a position as an ornamental duck. And a hockey team? Nice hobby but there is no money in playing hockey as a job. You are all in la la land.

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    alecto

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

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