MOTOR INDUSTRY magazine - two articles in September 2003 issue: Charity’s bid to give young offenders ’a second chance’ The Toyota training scheme at Aylesbury Young Offenders’ Institution is included in a national register compiled by a charity whose work involves the rehabilitation of young offenders.
The Michael Sieff Foundation has also produced a video, entitled ‘A second chance’, showing young offenders examples of employers prepared to offer them training and jobs – the opportunity to ‘go straight’.
Employers featured on the register – currently totalling 50 – range from Marks & Spencer and the Costain building group to Virgin Records and the Army.
Lady Elizabeth Haslam established the Michael Sieff Foundation in 1986 in memory of her husband, Michael Sieff, a vice-chairman of Marks & Spencer.
Both had involved themselves in the education and welfare of young people, but what triggered the setting up of the Foundation was the public outcry following the killing of a young girl, Jasmine Beckford, by her stepfather, while she was in the care of social services.
“Like many others, I was so incensed by the circumstances leading up to that poor girl’s death that I organised a conference to discuss the need for better communication between those who are responsible for young people’s welfare, and things followed on from there,” said Lady Haslam.
The charity, which is “dedicated to improving policy and practice for children and young people in need”, is headed by its president Lord Laming, who chaired a public inquiry into a more recent victim of abuse, eight year old Victoria Climbié. Chairman is Baroness Howarth, who is also a member of the House of Lords children’s committee.
Explaining the reasons behind the Second Chance initiative, Lady Haslam said: “It’s a sad fact that there are more than 11,000 young people in prisons in this country – proportionately more than most other Western European countries. Most come from violent or broken homes, have little or no education and no job skills.
“Prison clearly is not an effective deterrent because three quarters re-offend within two years of release.
“Industry has a real role and opportunity to break this cycle. The social benefits are obvious and there’s no need for employers to be defensive about their own self-interest.”
Echoing Toyota’s efforts to provide more skilled people, Lady Haslam commented: “Why have shortages of skilled workers when there’s literally a captive pool of young people in prison eager for something useful to do?
“Employers on our training and jobs register report that the youngsters are bright and receptive and only a handful re-offend. We need more enlightened employers to join them. Just fill in the form and send it to us.”