North East housing association Bernicia has teamed up with award-winning local charity, The Recruitment Junction, to boost its efforts to get people with convictions into work.

The six-month project will allow the Newcastle-based charity to work intensively with an extra 20 former offenders who are hoping to find work and move on with their lives in a productive way, while helping regional employers fill job vacancies.

The £10,000 project is part of Bernicia’s wider £2m employability programme aimed at creating job opportunities for communities where its tenants live.

This investment will contribute towards funding a specialist support worker who will assist 20 men and women from across Northumberland, Tyneside and Wearside to find full-time or part-time employment.

Leading employers who have lent their support to the project include Greene King, Suez, Sunbelt Rentals, Adderstone Group, Mitie and Wagamama.

Beverley Brooks, founder of The Recruitment Junction, said: “I am thrilled to go into our third year with this support from Bernicia enabling us to place more people with prior convictions into paid work.

“We are passionate about seeing people re-discover a sense of purpose through work, becoming role models who drive positive generational impact across their families.

“We look forward to continuing to deliver on skills shortages for employers across the North East, combatting persistent regional unemployment and contributing to a national reduction in re-offending that sees safer communities and fewer victims of crime.

“Since launching at the end of 2020, we have placed over 300 people with convictions into paid work across more than 100 local employers, with over 75% job retention rates and more than 98% of these men and women going on to live crime-free lifestyles. I look ahead with confident expectation to building upon this in 2023.”

Dionne Smith, Bernicia employability partner, said: “We recognise the complexity of the challenges people with convictions are faced with.

“Our investment in The Recruitment Junction programme allows us to break down attitudes and barriers, to recognise, understand and address the full diversity of the prison population, help raise their aspirations and get them access to fulfilling work.

“The wider social value of reaching people with convictions is in the impact of reducing offending in communities, building stronger links with employers to maximise job opportunities so prison leavers can lead a crime–free life and giving people the self-respect of earning a wage and dictating a positive future for them and their families.”

Bernicia is working with partners across the North East business and education sectors to build aspiration, increase confidence and provide access to training, skills and job opportunities.