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OSWIN PROJECT Creating second chances through training and employment

Oswin Project improves ex-offenders’ chances of finding long-term employment on leaving prison through the provision of bespoke careers support. To date, over 70 Oswinners (prison leavers) have been supported in their transition to work. To expand their reach, the team have launched Café 16, a prisoner operated café in HMP Northumberland, along with a new Café 16 at Newcastle Cathedral.

The prison population are marked by disadvantage. Prison and sentencing often lead to further disadvantage; around one-third of British prisoners lose their housing, two-thirds lose their job, over a fifth face increased financial problems and over two-fifths lose contact with their family (Barlow and Maruna, 2012). Within this context, education and training have become key strategies in the effort to reduce reoffending.

Based in Bothal, Northumberland, Oswin Project aims to break the cycle of re-offending through the provision of training and employment support. The team also support Oswinners with tailored mentoring and supervision, focusing on softer skills such as building confidence and heightening aspirations. They have established a range of successful employment initiatives in areas where there are skills shortages in the region. Employment opportunities include painting and decorating, ground maintenance, gardening and house building.

“Oswin have given me hope again, given me a reason to sort of, carry on again, a new direction… It’s just good to know they are there.” Oswinner

With support from the Foundation, the Oswin team have expanded their work by opening a prisoner operated café in HMP Northumberland for prison staff. Café 16 aims to support 50 Oswinners per year who are still in prison to learn how to bake goods, undergo barista training and many other skills; from hospitality skills such as food safety through to NVQ level 3 or equivalent in craft bakery. The café will significantly increase Oswin’s social impact and the number of Oswinners they can reach by providing quality work experience for people who are still in prison, which will hopefully ease their transition into work on release as hospitality skills are in high demand in the region.

A secondary aim is for the café to create additional, unrestricted income for the charity and a longer term aim is for Café 16 to be a replicable model that could be launched in other prisons. Initially, support from the Badur Foundation enabled the team to hire an Assistant Manager who will teach and mentor prisoners on site, as well as covering the first year of training costs for Oswinners. This role is key in delivering the social impact, which is at the core of this project.

“Oswin were the ones who stuck their neck out for me, gave me a chance when a lot of people wouldn’t, from day one they gave me that, that chance.” Oswinner

Building on the success of the original Café 16, the Oswin team have launched a second Café 16 at Newcastle Cathedral. This seeks to bridge the employment gap on release from prison, supporting prison leavers find better lives away from offending. Baked goods in the community café will be produced in the bakery at HMP Northumberland, and all profits will help support the charity’s work. The Foundation provided further support towards the salaries of two Oswinners, who are employed at the new café, and will continue to work with Oswin as they trial this new model.