It’s a universal truth that country music legend Glen Campbell was quick to grasp: there’s nothing that captures a thought, an idea, a feeling, quite as much as a place. Wichita Lineman, Galveston, St Louis Blues; all of these songs are brought to life by the mental association with sights, sounds, and smells of the places which lend them their title.
This approach isn’t just applicable to music – it has found its way to the world of policy and politics as well. Take ‘Workington Man’ – a moniker developed by the Onward think tank ahead of the 2019 general election to describe a northern, rugby league-loving male over the age of 45 without a degree, who had previously supported Labour but voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum.
And given the vogue for place-based policymaking, attracting national attention for a pioneering approach to the concept which actually includes the name of a place in its title, is nothing short of marketing genius.
Step forward the architects of the ‘Preston Model’, an approach to economic development which aims to build a resilient and inclusive economy for the benefit of the local community. In the case of the Lancastrian town, it involved the council, its anchor institutions and other partners collaborating to implement the principles of community wealth building for the benefit of Preston and its inhabitants.
How Yorkshire is leading the way
Now allow me to present the latest place-based policy which is turning heads across the UK – and one rooted in God’s Own Country, no less (always a joy for a Yorkshireman). The ‘Yorkshire model’ is a pioneering new approach bringing together education and careers support in prisons in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Novus has been delivering education in the region’s prisons for three decades, and in that time has cultivated strong links with employers and communities.
The typical model in most of England sees separate contracts awarded for employment hubs, prison education and information, advice and guidance (IAG). This creates organisational silos, duplication, sub-scale delivery and confusion for businesses and prisoners alike. Employers end up having to separately engage with different teams and organisations, creating the risk of information falling between the gaps.
In the Yorkshire and Humber region, Novus has piloted a different model, delivering contracts for education provision alongside employment support and IAG. Employer engagement is therefore easier and prisoners have consistent teams working with them from course delivery through to securing a job after their release. If it sounds like the kind of simple common sense that Yorkshire is renowned for, that because it is – and the results speak for themselves.
Changing lives while meeting economic need
The number of prisoners progressing into stable employment or further training and education after release has increased by 65% over the last three years. The employment outcomes of the prisons taking part in the programme are up to three times higher than those where these services are delivered by a range of different organisations.
The success of the approach has been showcased in the thought-provoking new report by the Centre for Social Justice think tank, which I and my Novus colleagues were proud to contribute to. As Peter Cox explains in the report:
“It was clear to us that if the prison education sector was to be even more effective at helping to break cycles of reoffending and positively impact the lives of ex-offenders, there needed to be stronger connections between the education that prisoners receive while serving their sentence and the employment opportunities that exist in the labour market upon their release.
“By strengthening these links through greater collaboration and enhanced support for offenders upon their release in the Yorkshire region, we have been able to significantly increase the number of offenders who move into stable employment at the end of their sentence.”
Reducing reoffending benefits all
This matters. As the Prisons Strategy White Paper recognises, supporting prisoners into employment plays a key role in reducing reoffending. Research by the Ministry of Justice found that people who had participated in education whilst in prison were less likely to reoffend within 12 months of release than those who had not by 7.5 percentage points. As such, the Yorkshire Model is not only providing skilled workers for the local labour market but is playing a significant role in reducing the £18bn-per-year cost of reoffending across the country.
Novus is already playing a key role in strengthening the link between prison education and employment and, by working in partnership with Total People and LTE Group, facilitated some of the first apprenticeships to be offered to serving prisoners under a trial by the Department for Education and Ministry of Justice UK. Here’s hoping that the success of the Yorkshire Model could have similarly far-reaching consequences.