07 May

On a damp Thursday morning, 12 World Traders met at a South London venue clutching our passports. After putting valuables in a locker and going through security, we emerged blinking into the sunlight of – not Barbados – but Brixton prison.

We were there as guests of the charity No Going Back. This is an innovative programme driven by a group of Livery Companies aiming to provide prisoners with the support they need to secure sustainable employment upon release. By offering a wide range of training and job opportunities, NGB seeks to reduce re-offending rates and transform lives – and also, incidentally, reduce the £18 billion that re-offending costs the taxpayer each year.

We were welcomed by Francesca Findlater OBE, Executive Director of NGB, and her team. After coffee in ‘The Clink’ (of which more later) we were taken to visit some of the workshops where prisoners develop skills that will be useful on the outside. We looked round the dry lining and painting and decorating workshops and had an opportunity to talk with the tutors. After a visit to the large and rather beautiful chapel, we then went on to the employment hub where staff work help prisoners who will be leaving in the next month or so. Support is given with obtaining right to work documentation (such as birth certificates, bank accounts and driving licenses) and with housing. We were told that in general, prisoners do not have housing in place as they approach release. Employment events with employers and volunteers are also facilitated by this team.

By now we were getting hungry, and were taken back to The Clink restaurant where we enjoyed an excellent three course meal accompanied by a selection of very interesting non-alcoholic beverages. The Clink is a public restaurant run by prisoners in partnership with The Clink Charity. The prisoners study for NVQs in cooking and food service while they work. They also receive mentoring upon release, including support with employment and accommodation. It could not have been a better advertisement for what can be achieved with the right support and encouragement in what are very difficult circumstances.

We were all taken aback by our very pleasant waiter at The Clink and his story, including his experiences in the prison system. (He had once been in the City.) For all the statistics and numbers, we were reminded that it is all about individual people, and it is charities like No Going Back that bring the individual element back into focus.

This was an eye-opening experience, from which we all came away with a greater level of appreciation of the challenges of rehabilitating released prisoners and the fantastic work charities like No Going Back do in such institutions.

No Going Back is now in its fourth year. The program welcomes volunteering from both the Livery Companies themselves and partner organisations and is supported by almost 40 livery Companies. This following video gives a flavour of the important work being done by this charity.

No Going Back

Sue Algeo