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Social enterprise in Thetford formed to help ex-offenders find employment

The Horticulture Industry Scheme (THIS) at Thetford. Co-founder Tim Melvin with employee Anna Rose. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

The Horticulture Industry Scheme (THIS) at Thetford. Co-founder Tim Melvin with employee Anna Rose. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

archant 2017

A new social enterprise is helping ex-offenders find employment opportunities by teaching them transferable skills through gardening.

The Horticulture Industry Scheme (THIS) at Thetford. Co-founders Tim Melvin and Georgina Keatley. Picture : ANTONY KELLY The Horticulture Industry Scheme (THIS) at Thetford. Co-founders Tim Melvin and Georgina Keatley. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Based at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford, The Horticulture Industry Scheme (THIS) offers paid work placements to those who have served prison sentences.

The workers spend two-days a week, from 9am to 5pm, for six months planting, nurturing and growing salad leaves, vegetables and edible flowers to sell to local restaurants.

The Horticulture Industry Scheme (THIS) at Thetford. Employee Anna Rose. Picture : ANTONY KELLY The Horticulture Industry Scheme (THIS) at Thetford. Employee Anna Rose. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

They are offered support and training and build on the skills needed to be desirable to employers, including team work and integrity. THIS also helps to steer the ex-offenders to jobs placements.

Co-founder and chief executive Georgina Keatley said a criminal record can put employers off potential job candidates and hopes to help remove the stigma.

She said: “We are working with people who are job ready or close to it and where there is a need for support or where employment is a big barrier. I think ex-offenders are the most disadvantaged group in the work place.

The Horticulture Industry Scheme (THIS) at Thetford. Co-founder Tim Melvin with employee Anna Rose. Picture : ANTONY KELLY The Horticulture Industry Scheme (THIS) at Thetford. Co-founder Tim Melvin with employee Anna Rose. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

“People want to get themselves sorted and move on. Some ex-offenders are quite socially excluded and to be at a centre which is very community-based, this is the sort of place were they won’t be excluded.”

THIS also offer work placements to Category D prisoners.

Anna Rose is one of the workers. She has spent time in prison and has suffered from mental health problems.

Despite having a long-term job in the past at a retail store, she has found it hard to find a job.

The 47-year-old, who lives in Thetford, said: “I was in the position of being out of work for a year and I thought I would never get anything. And it was not through lack of trying.

“It is brilliant. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning knowing I am going to have a good day ahead of me.

“I don’t have a garden and I have never done gardening but I am learning and it is all going well.”

Co-founder and general manager Tim Melvin added: “We believe that ex-offenders are some of the hardest workers because they have something to prove. We are hoping to get across to people that they go the extra mile.”

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