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Transforming Lives Through Employability — Redefining Purpose for Ex-Offenders

May 14, 2021

The pandemic has now been with us for over a year, and since then the world has shifted its diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) lens. We have become more empathetic, more deeply committed to much needed social change — two key characteristics that have helped to bring communities together throughout these very uncertain times.

As part of the increased sense of community, one sector challenging the norm is judicial reform. This is emerging as a prominent platform for discussion and spearheading genuine change and action for the rehabilitation of offenders.

Since August of last year, the FH4Inclusion UK team has been working closely with Key4Life, a charity and social justice organisation that helps transform the lives of ex-offenders. The organisation works with corporates and small businesses to rebuild the lives of these incarcerated young men by guiding them through resilience training, providing mentors, opening employment opportunities, enabling them to earn an income and broadly integrating back into society.

The Key4Life Effect

Reoffending currently costs the UK government £18.1 billion a year. A Key4life participant is four times more likely to be employed a year after their release than their peers, and only 16% of those who’ve completed Key4Life’s programmes have re-offended, compared to the national reoffending rate of 64% one-year post-release. 

The statistics of where these young men come from are very sobering. Sixty-five percent of boys with convicted fathers will go on to offend; 30% of the young men are fathers themselves; and 48% don’t have a home upon release. This makes the story of the Key4Life participants and their resilience even more extraordinary.

As a visionary and change agent, the CEO and Founder of Key4Life, Eva Hamilton, continues to inspire us and has been the vital engine behind the success of the programmes thanks to her passion and belief in the promise of these young offenders.

Our Key4Life FH4Inclusion Communications Strategy and Outcomes

When we started our partnership with Eva and her team, we identified early in the piece, that their powerful story needed to be heard by a wider audience in order to unlock more funding and employability partnerships with corporates and small business. The funding for these programmes often means the difference between a life saved and a life lost.

As part of the comms and thought leadership programme, we have helped to extract the key chapters of the Key4Life story, bringing it to life through narrative building, and developing its comms plan for 2021. With those new disciplines and communication structures in place, we have approached 2021 with an exciting outreach and storytelling programme. One that drives greater awareness and ultimately elevates the social conscious of corporate organisations, recasts their prejudice about employing ex-offenders, and encourages them to open their doors and offer meaningful jobs and purpose for these men.

In February, we helped to craft a release and a media engagement approach, in partnership with Will Gethin from Conscious Frontiers, built around a Brixton prison graduation event, which celebrated the young men who had come through the rehabilitation program. Highlighting that the DE&I lens was high on the agenda in the business world at this time, and against the backdrop of a continued locked-down nation and employment decline, a news article was secured with the Press Association featuring five prison graduates who had attained fulfilling jobs or set up an enterprising business during lockdown. 

We knew the story was timely and powerful, so much so that it was syndicated in more than 100 newspapers across Britain, reaching millions of readers. This was the first time that a Key4Life story had been so widely amplified and the outcomes of that storytelling left a powerful legacy. Greater awareness led to increased incoming calls from corporates who were more open to recruiting ex-offenders, and positive coverage about ex-offenders whose talents and true potential had been revealed.

The employability programme has achieved more than 500 long-term placements and jobs and we are excited to see the communications strategies driving higher engagement and corporate support for this meaningful program.

The Impact of Our Work — On Key4Life and Our Team

“We have been delighted and grateful to partner with the FleishmanHillard (FH) team, at a time that the conversation on DE&I is so central to social reform.

During the time we have worked with FH, their contribution has been impactful, more than we could have hoped for. The true value was in helping realign our communications strategy to support one of the most intractable problems in the UK which is the rehabilitation of youth offenders.

The story of Key4Life needs to be sensitively handled but equally offer a powerful opportunity to change perceptions. FH has brought an extraordinary gift to Key4Life: to bring that blend of our story to life. With the help of the FH team, we can see the powerful story of Key4Life gaining scale, helping us to reach and engage with a greater number of corporate stakeholders and sponsors to grow the reach and impact of our rehabilitation programme.”Eva Hamilton

“To have the opportunity to partner with someone of Eva Hamilton’s caliber and experience in the social justice sector has been a privilege. Through Eva, her passion for the charity and the story of what Key4Life brings, we have been able to see first-hand the transformation of lives and the opportunities afforded by recasting ex-offenders in a positive light. This programme genuinely delivers positive social impact at scale. One life at a time, the charity has reached and transformed the lives of nearly 500 former offenders.

Living our true values of DE&I has been made possible by working alongside Eva, and the courageous participants seeking to follow the programme. Our fulfilling experience with this charity, and the practical vision to help translate their work into powerful, compelling storytelling, will remain a life-changing journey for our FleishmanHillard (FH) team.”Myrna van Pelt, True MOSAIC lead, EMEA