From education to employment

Islington charity awarded over £100k to support women with convictions into work

The UK’s only charity helping women with criminal convictions find jobs has received a cash boost for its work supporting Londoners.
London’s largest independent grant giver, City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable funder, has awarded Working Chance £117,000.
Working Chance, based in Islington, is the UK’s only recruitment consultancy for women with criminal convictions and young female care leavers at risk of offending. The charity provides specialist employment services to women in prison, on probation and out in the community, helping them turn their lives around.
The grant will expand the charity’s work across the capital by employing a full-time Recruitment Coach.  50% of staff at Working Chance have criminal convictions and the newly funded post will also be filled by a woman with personal experience of the criminal justice system. This role will support over 700 women in London to find employment.
Alison Gowman, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee, said:
“This charity is recognising and nurturing talent, helping women with convictions integrate back into the community and turn their lives around.
“These women are being given a second chance and the right support to get into employment – giving them independence and a real confidence boost.
“City Bridge Trust is committed to tackling disadvantage across the capital and making London a fairer and better place to live.”
Jocelyn Hillman OBE, Founder and Chief Executive of Working Chance, added:
“As the UK’s only specialist recruitment consultancy for women with criminal convictions, we are often the only place these women can turn to for help with finding a job and becoming financially independent. This grant will mean that we can continue to support marginalised women to cross the social divide from lives of exclusion to lives of contribution.
“The grant will fund a new trainee recruitment consultant, who will be trained to find the women we support quality jobs where they can thrive and support themselves and their families.
“We take pride in practising what we preach – 50% of our own staff have personal experience of the criminal justice and care systems – so we are very keen to fill this Trainee Recruitment Consultant position with a candidate who has similar lived experience, as we have done successfully in the past.”
City Bridge Trust makes grants totalling around £20 million per year towards charitable activity benefitting Greater London.
The charitable funder has awarded more than 7,700 grants totalling over £370 million since it first began in 1995. It helps achieve the City Corporation’s aim of changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners.

Case study – Chloe’s Story

Chloe first encountered Working Chance several years ago, through one of the charity’s employability workshops within prison. She was nearing the end of her sentence and wanted support and guidance on preparing to re-enter the world of work, with a conviction, and becoming financially independent.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous at the prospect of trying to find a good job with a conviction,” Chloe said. “But I was 100% willing to do whatever it took to get me there. I was chomping at the bit to get my life back on track and make something of myself.”

Chloe took part in a series of workshops covering everything she’d need to know, from how to write an impressive CV to disclosing a conviction in an interview – and she had a spark that soon caught the attention of the Working Chance team leading the workshops.

“I remember how impressed I was with Chloe’s unwavering determination to turn her life around and change her circumstances for the better,” says one Working Chance team member. “She was so upbeat and positive – it made having her participate in the workshops a real pleasure. She was also such an inspiration to the other women, which really helped.”

Thanks to Chloe’s strong work ethic and enthusiasm for gaining more experience, she was offered a volunteer placement in Working Chance’s London office, to complete on day release from prison in the run-up to her release. Chloe was soon getting up at the crack of dawn five days a week, to commute from the prison outside London to Working Chance’s office in Islington – and making the same long journey back in the evenings.

“It was strange coming and going between the two environments every day, but I loved it,” says Chloe. “I was really grateful to have the opportunity to prove myself, and especially with an organisation that helps women who’ve had similar experiences to me.”

Chloe soon became indispensable to Working Chance. It was quickly noticed that she had a way with both the women Working Chance supports and the employers the charity works with – warm, confident and supportive, but also ready to challenge people to do better when it was needed. She was offered a Trainee Recruitment Consultant position with Working Chance, and immediately accepted – still commuting from prison each day. Chloe was “over the moon” to be offered the role.

“Chloe was such a brilliant addition to our team – a real rising star,” says Working Chance’s Founder and Chief Executive, Jocelyn Hillman. “She’s tenacious, passionate and totally committed to doing her very best – exactly the kind of values we always aim to practise as an organisation, and that we want to instil in all the women we work with.”

That was four years ago. Chloe went on to successfully complete her traineeship, and was promoted to Recruitment Consultant around the same time she was released from prison – and was later promoted again to become a member of Working Chance’s senior management team. She’s now integral to the organisation’s continuing success – but she’s never forgotten how it all began.

“Every day, I’m reminded that all these women need is someone to give them a second chance so that they can thrive and exceed everyone’s expectations. I am living proof of the benefits of that kind of attitude – benefits not just for me, but for my family, my employer and society as a whole.”


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