New horizons

 AmarWe must challenge employers who don’t acknowledge the value of a second chance, says Amar Lodhia.

Over the past six months we’ve been changing here at TSBC. We’re transforming from a provider of training programmes to an organisation that still engages users through enterprise, but now in bespoke one-to-one sessions, embedded within a statutory or commissioned provision. We call this new model our Local Enterprise and Employability Service, or LEES for short.

One component of the new service is a work trial and job brokerage scheme that supports clients into short work placements with the aim of up-skilling them for their own ventures or supporting them into employment with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), both locally and regionally. It’s clearly capturing the attention of the commissioners we’ve been speaking to.

Most people naturally understand an employer’s reticence about hiring someone with a criminal record or someone who’s battled an addiction. But where does this cosy understanding come from? Scratch away at this and you reveal a situation where no one is ever given a second chance or has the opportunity to make amends for past mistakes.

For me, the aim of recruitment is to find the person who best matches the skills, experience and personal qualities you need for the role. Excluding past offenders and those who have battled with addiction, you are, by definition, potentially missing out on the best match.

And when we talk of personal qualities, why would you not want to hire someone who has shown the resilience and fortitude to start their life over again? Time and again, we hear stories of how loyal people are to companies who’ve given them a second chance. At TSBC, one of our participants, whom we placed with a web developer, became their employee of the year that very same year – how’s that for paying back someone’s faith in you?

Of course, there are roles within financial services, so-called ‘controlled function’ roles, which have stipulations attached to them by the FCA. And yes, when the job involves unsupervised working with children or vulnerable adults, there’s a need to run a DBS (formerly CRB) check. But these account for only a fraction of all roles available.

I’m encouraged by the new Ban the Box campaign recently launched by charity Business in the Community (BITC) and supported by the likes of Alliance Boots PLC. The campaign aims to enable people with the highest barriers to employment to access work by challenging employers who use the blunt instrument of a tick-box exercise which is rejecting passionate, skilled employees – including those people who have received £300 fine for a driving offence!

It is troubling when I hear people saying that ‘that’s a graduate job’ or ‘that’s a very technical role’. This attitude simply fails to understand that addiction isn’t limited to just one layer of society, and that alcohol and drugs are no respecters of either intelligence or position. Once again, we need to urge employers to move beyond the preconceptions and consider each person on their merits.

We’ve recently come across an organisation trying to persuade employers to do just that. Clean Sheet are working to find employers who are willing to give offenders a fair chance, because they know that most ex-offenders do want to work.

As Anita Roddick told me over a cup of tea once – business must be a force for positive social change first and economic change will follow suit!

To enquire more about our work please contact me at and follow me on Twitter @amarlodhia or @tsbclondon. Don’t forget to use the #tag DDNews when tweeting!

Amar Lodhia is chief executive of The Small Business Consultancy CIC (TSBC)

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