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WISE Pilot Project Findings Report.pdf (1.44 MB)

The role of Work Integrated Social Enterprise (WISE) in supporting employment and desistance for criminalised individuals

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posted on 2024-04-22, 10:18 authored by Rebecca OswaldRebecca Oswald

The importance of legitimate employment in supporting desistance has been consistently recognised, yet many of those with a significant criminal history face numerous barriers to participating in labour markets. This report presents findings from a pilot project, involving research with three UK Work Integrated Social Enterprises (WISE). These organisations offer ‘supported employment’ for criminalised individuals within their organisation, in an environment which can accommodate for complex needs, whilst also receiving holistic support with the issues that are acting as a barrier to maintaining employment. This research was largely exploratory, with the intention to be a precursor to a larger-scale research project in this area. Using qualitative methods – including interviews with WISE employees (n=16) and other stakeholders (n=12) – it aimed to investigate the impact engagement with WISE can have for criminalised individuals, both in terms of labour market integration, as well supporting a move away from crime. Findings demonstrated that WISE could help employees develop the financial, physical, emotional and relational stability required in their lives to begin to support a move away from crime. WISE could also support ‘identity desistance’ by providing an opportunity for employees to forge a new identity as a legitimate worker that they could take pride in, replacing the past criminal identity in which they were becoming increasingly disillusioned. Furthermore, WISE could act as an essential intermediary step towards gaining mainstream employment for criminalised individuals who may need time, training, work experience and support before they are ready for work outside of this environment, without which they risk being ‘set up to fail’. Nonetheless, this research also highlighted how pervasive stigmatisation of criminalised individuals, the structural conditions of contemporary labour markets and an increasingly competitive funding environment can undermine WISE’s social mission.

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