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Developing capacity

New starts: Ex-offenders working in social care – current practice and potential for recruitment


The primary aim of this study is to establish the evidence base about current practices for employing former offenders in social care and the potential to recruit them to social care roles.

Over 11 million people in the UK have a criminal record – an increase of 1.1 million over the past two years. The extent of the recruitment challenge in social care was confirmed in the recent National Audit Office report (2018) which reported the care worker vacancy rate in England to be 7.7% and turnover as 33.8% in 2016-17. Ex-offenders often experience difficulties entering the workforce and it is possible that more of this group would be interested in working in social care. Currently just over a quarter of prisoners (26.5%) enter employment on release (Parliament, 2016). Some former prisoners possess a great deal of experiential knowledge of, for example, mental health or addictions, and might be particularly well-placed to take up roles in the sector with training and support.


March – October 2018


Caroline Norrie and Jill Manthorpe (SCWRU)


NIHR Policy Research Programme


A systematic scoping review and contemporaneous call for evidence to establish what is known about the following research questions:

  • Do organisations providing social care services have guidelines or work practices about the employment of ex-offenders/those with DBS records in England?
  • Is there evidence about the range of roles ex-offenders currently undertake in social care and potentially could undertake?
  • Is there evidence of whether ex-offenders wish to work in social care?
  • Is any social care training offered in prisons or other criminal justice facilities?
  • Do some sectors of social care look more favourably upon employing ex-offenders than others (how does this compare to retail and hospitality for example)?
  • Is there any evidence about social care managers’ views on the acceptability of recruiting ex-offenders? What factors do they weigh up, eg seriousness of crimes, perceived risks, how long ago they took place, work or volunteering experience, training?
  • Is there evidence about whether managers’ views on the acceptability of recruiting ex-offenders to work in social care would increase if relevant experience and training were gained in prison or as part of other offender management programmes?
  • Is there evidence about whether ex-offenders are successful in obtaining places on and completing social care training courses (eg Care Certificate, social work)?
  • Is there evidence from pilots where prisoners have received social care training in prison about whether they gained employment afterwards?

The review will be informed by a consultation workshop designed to discuss early findings and identify if these accord with key informants’ experiences.

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