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Gary's story

Posted on 24 October 2013

A scheme that sees ex-offenders employed to clean up eyesore spots has resulted in a huge reduction in re-offending rates.

The Your Environmental Team project has so far hired 30 former prisoners on six-month contracts.

The team is managed by Blue Sky, a social enterprise backed by Groundwork, with help from Greater Manchester Probation Trust and supported by eight social housing providers across north Manchester.

The project was launched four years ago and only 19 per cent of former prisoners who take part have gone on to commit further crimes, compared to the national average of 47.2 per cent.

The scheme currently employs three former prisoners on minimum wage to clean up run-down areas of north Manchester.

One of those involved is Gary Conway, aged 42, who has been in and out of prison since he was a teenager after becoming addicted to crack cocaine and heroin. He was released from prison in July after serving a 10-month sentence for shoplifting and believes working on the YET project will help him find long-term work and stay out of trouble.

He said:

“Getting this job has changed my prospects entirely. It’s given me confidence, it’s helped me get a CV together and I’ve been able to demonstrate teamwork.

“I’m up at 6am every morning, there’s a reason to get up, to go to work. I don’t know where I would be without the project.”

Workers are currently renovating a communal garden off Colebrook Drive which had been tended by a keen gardener on the estate but became overgrown after the man died.

Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said:

"What this project does is help people get normality in their lives – developing the good habits of getting up for a job and showing that they can do it.

It helps put a stop to the revolving door of going in and out of prison, helps people better themselves, and that should be applauded."

Claire Tyrrell, head of neighbourhood services for Northwards Housing, said:

"We’re ensuring that ex-offenders don’t slip back into the life that got them into prison in the first place. They gain valuable experience in the world of work, earning a real wage and can be more included in society."

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