From education to employment

Labour of love for Fred Sirieix and project to turn young offenders’ lives around

Barbara McDonough, Chief Operating Officer for Novus; Emily Thomas, Governor at HMP/YOI Isis; chef Chris Thompson; Fred Sirieix; Paul Baker, Deputy Director of Custody (DDC) for Greater London National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and Simon Sheehan, Director of the DM Thomas Foundation for Young People.

A partnership headed up by perhaps the most famous maitre d’ in Britain promises to help young offenders on the road to a future free of crime and fill a hospitality skills gap.

Fred Sirieix, the hugely popular presenter of Channel Four’s First Dates, established The Right Course, a new initiative which seeks to transform staff restaurants in prisons into high street-like operations using existing facilities and equipment and at no cost to the tax payer.

And together with Novus – the UK leader in offender learning and skills – and the DM Thomas Foundation, the initiative seeks to teach young offenders professional skills and help them to enter the world of hospitality upon completing their prison term.

Around 20 young people serving time in HMP/YOI Isis, waited on a number of guests in the Thamesmead, London-based establishment with the guidance of Fred, and chef Chris Thompson, who has worked in some of London’s best restaurants, The Grove hotel, Maze by Gordon Ramsay and the Duck and Waffle.

Fred said: “The whole aim is to reduce reoffending and teach prisoners about service and cooking within prisons so that they can join our industry upon release. The work we do together with Novus and the DM Thomas Foundation gets young learners to practice delivering high standards that will ultimately make them great professionals.

“Prison environments should be about forgiveness and redemption. We should be educating these young people and instilling strong values within them to underpin it all.

“Novus plays an integral and important role in this scheme and works closely with The Right Course to ensure we deliver our vision and values. We’re here to help these young people and also to help them to help themselves.”

Novus, which provides education and skills training at Isis and in more than 60 additional prisons across England and Wales, engages young learners so they can see that learning can play a pivotal role in their redemption.

Peter Cox, Managing Director of Novus, said: “What an exciting partnership. Novus is very much behind Fred’s vision, which we believe will teach many young people the values required to make a positive contribution to society and to leave their criminal past firmly behind them.

“We will continue to work closely with our partners to innovate and set up projects like this across the country, in our fight to reduce re-offending rates.”

Around 50 guests enjoyed expertly-prepared cuisine, which made young learners feel a sense of pride in their achievements. A training programme, in which young people will engage with employer volunteers, will now begin.

Chris, who has been named Dan Doherty’s protégé and who is currently working at Zelman Meats as a Development chef, said: “I want to show the guys (young offenders) that being a chef and working in a kitchen is not just about hard work, but also that there is a lot of fun to be had.

“Having camaraderie and a family feel will be good for them. To get advanced skills from an experienced chef is great and this experience has opened both their eyes, and mine.”

Emily Thomas, Governor at HMP/YOI Isis, said: “I am so, so proud of all the boys here. Our vision at HMP/YOI Isis is to provide hope for the future and make change possible. The work going on with The Right Choice is brilliant to see.”

Also involved in this project is Land Securities, Hilton and Galvin by Windows.

About Novus: A not-for-profit large-scale social enterprise delivering education, training and employability in more than 60 sites within prisons, Approved Premises and the community.

Part of LTE group, Novus has more than 20 years’ experience in offender learning and is the largest UK provider of education, training and employability programmes to offenders, supporting learners in both custody and community settings.

We work with the Ministry of Justice, National Offender Management Service, the Youth Justice Board, and a wide variety of partner organisations, to raise the aspirations of offenders to increase employability and reduce reoffending.

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