Second chances don’t come along very often, especially if you are stigmatised by an offending history.

Sometimes you need to believe in yourself before you can expect an employer to believe in you.

Touchstone’s West Yorkshire Finding Independence (WYFI) project had been working with people who experience multiple and complex needs, including those who have been through the justice system, to gain the skills and the self-belief to get back into employment.

Recently we worked with J, who had a history of drug abuse and prolific shop lifting in her hometown of Bradford. She was accepted onto the peer mentor course after years of abstinence from drugs and crime. However, as she noted she still had the stigma of been labelled a “thief” and a “druggy” especially when visiting shops she used to shop-lift from to feed her habits.

The thought of finding a job was daunting for J. She had not worked for years and her confidence in herself was low. She had a lot of volunteering experience but did not feel up to the challenge of paid employment.

We met J and talked about the barriers she saw to going back to work. These included finding childcare for her son, not being in a working environment for years, and the lack of confidence that stemmed from her offending history and the stigma that went with it.

As our conversations went on, the thing that stood out about J was her willingness to learn. She asked many questions in order to get a better understanding of a subject and she was not scared to put forward her own ideas.

We spoke about working part time and explained that even when applying for full time roles you could request a job share. We also talked about how most employers in the third sector offer flexible working and the most important thing was to be open and honest about what you see as barriers to work.  Finally we discussed how sometimes it was good to go through the experience of applying for a role even if you might not be able to accept it.  You can always turn it down but at least you knew you were employable.

We discussed possible roles of interest and together we went through the process of completing some applications using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique to answer application and interview questions. We also spoke about how the skills you talk about in a job application don’t need to be from the work environment or voluntary based experiences but could come from home life. J was a mother who had considerable skills and abilities in raising a family and running a household.

With her new-found confidence and some support from WYFI, J applied for a role supporting offenders in the criminal justice system and got it!

She still contacts us regularly to share learning and to see how we are doing.

Touchstone’s WYFI, Shafa and Liaison and Diversion teams all seek to support people to turn their lives around and to walk on a better path.

Photo by Michael LaRosa on Unsplash