“If you came into the depot today, and looked round, you wouldn’t know who was who,” says Dave Bamford, director at AMC (NW) Group. “Everyone is happy to be there and everyone is treated the same.”
Yet, some of his team are ex-offenders. And some of them are still in prison.
Since late 2019, Bamford has recruited 12 people from Thorn Cross Prison in Warrington to work for All Mac Surfacing, part of the AMC (NW) Group, on its highway repair and maintenance teams. The idea behind the programme is that people gain experience and skills while still in prison so that they are employable when they leave. All Mac Surfacing partners with Thermal Road Repairs (TRR), operating TRR technology to deliver quality, permanent pothole and asphalt defect repairs across a number of contracts, including TRR’s Manchester City Council contract.
Bamford decided that he wanted to work with offenders after hearing about a similar scheme in Rochdale, where he is a councillor. “It’s about rehabilitation,” he says. “When people come out of prison, they struggle to find work and so they reoffend. The majority of people have made a mistake and have been caught. I believe everybody deserves a second chance.”
Of the 12 people Bamford has recruited, who range in age from early 20s to late 50s, seven are now out of prison, with four still working for All Mac Surfacing. The other three are also working, in jobs that Bamford helped them to find and which suit them better, mostly because they are closer to their homes. Five of the 12 are still in prison, working on day release, and two decided that the sector was not for them.
Bamford’s approach to selecting people is not to grill them but to find people who he thinks will enjoy the work. “It’s more about listening than interviewing, trying to work out what sort of work would suit them,” he explains.
The prisoners leave Thorn Cross, which is a Category D or ‘open’ prison, each day to come and work with All Mac Surfacing. All Mac usually operates three-person teams on a Thermal Road Repair unit but, while the new starts are training, they will be a fourth team member. After a while, when they have been signed off as competent through TRR’s formal training process, they move to be in a three-person team.
Bamford says that all his team members are happy to work with the ex-offenders. “I explain to everyone what’s going on and they all have a positive reaction,” he says. “We don’t treat anybody any differently.”
For the first 12 weeks, All Mac pays the recruits a training wage which then rises to minimum wage, with the prison taking a proportion of their wages. When they are released from prison, they are paid a full wage, taking on the role they have gained the skills and competency for.
As well as giving ex-offenders the chance to support themselves financially, working with All Mac Surfacing is helping some people to improve their mental health, says Bamford. He has seen people go from feeling worthless and weighed down by guilt to having hope and feeling that they could have a useful future.
There will also be knock-on impacts which aren’t easy to see or measure. For instance, relationships with family members may be improved when someone is working and feels valued, children will have a wage-earning role model, and the cost to health and social care budgets will be reduced.
Bamford is now working to match up offenders with other local companies. “My advice to any company considering this would be to do it: give somebody a second change. We are all human beings.”
Thermal Road Repairs is a green technology company which supplies systems to improve the quality, cost and time efficiency of road repairs and paving – at a far lower environmental cost than traditional methods. We invest significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve our existing ones.
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