‘You’d be stupid to re-offend’: Ex-cons given ‘second chance’ at Manchester key cutters

A criminal record is an immediate turn off for most employers and you could argue that this puts ordinary people off committing crime almost as much as the threat of prison time does.

The National Careers Service website tells jobseekers with a criminal record to let employers know if ‘the crime isn’t relevant to the job you’re applying for’.

Bearing this in mind, it seems bizarre that Wythenshawe-based Timpson, the UK’s biggest key-cutting company, is also the UK’s biggest employer of ex-offenders.

Craig Blackworth has been working for Timpson for the last three years. He was recruited after being released from prison where he was incarcerated for dealing drugs.

His application was not a straightforward one. He had to take a six-month course at an independent training centre to prove that he was cut out for a working routine before Timpson would consider hiring him.

Even after joining the company, Craig went through 16 weeks of unpaid training.

Despite this, Craig had nothing but good things to say about the job.

“I wanted to make the change because I had a little daughter and I didn’t want her to look up to me and think ‘my dad’s a loser’,” he told MM.

“Timpson gave me a chance, and since then I’ve not looked back.

“Other people who aren’t from the prisons who work for Timpson, they do look at the foundation lads. At first, they don’t trust you.

“And I understand that because obviously they think if someone’s just come out of prison they’re going to rob the shop blind. But not everyone is like that.”

Not everyone is like that, but some are.

In fact, in January 2014 that exact thing did happen. An ex-offender who was an employee of Timpson in Bolton robbed the store for £4000 worth of goods.

But Craig pointed out that, due to insurance, the only people re-offenders are harming are themselves.

He said: “I’d never ever judge anyone on what they’ve done, as long as they come to work and they do the job.

“If someone robbed all the watches, Timpsons are insured anyway. They’d just pay all the customers out the full amount, so we don’t really have to worry about stuff like that.

“But if they do, they’re stupid because then they’ve lost their job.”

However, John Timpson CBE, Chairman of Timpson, says the results of the scheme speak for themselves.

The Timpson website claims that ‘out of nearly 300 men and women who have joined us over the last four years we only know of seven who have re-offended’.

These stats show a huge improvement over the national average re-offending rate, which was 26% in 2013 according to the Ministry of Justice.  

John’s son James Timpson, CEO of Timpson, who is responsible for the ex-offenders program. As the legend goes, the idea struck James when he was organising a conference in Thorn Cross prison in Warrington.

James was so impressed by the prisoner showing him round that he handed over a business card promising the man a job upon his release.

But are the Timpsons as altruistic as they make out?

At the end of the day, Timpson is a company, not a charity. It follows that they get something back out of the scheme, but this takes nothing away from the end result. The company gives people the chance to rebuild their lives when they’ve been left behind by the rest of society.

At the same time, any ex-offender will be tempted to re-offend. But after talking to Craig, it became clear that ex-offenders were aware that if they abused their position at Timpson, they would quickly lose a whole lot more than what they would stand to gain.  

Image courtesy of Bmwrider1, via Wikipedia, with thanks

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