Students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) are to help mentor prisoners establish small business ventures through a virtual self-employment support clinic.

The pilot initiative is a collaboration between the University’s Faculty of Business and Justice together with RIFT Social Enterprise (RSE), an organisation that works with prisoners and former prisoners, supporting them in creating sustainable businesses.

The partnership will draw upon the experience of UCLan’s *Criminal Justice Partnership and give students real-life learning opportunities, supporting clients in areas such as marketing, business planning, tax, and bookkeeping.

In 2017, the Lammy Review reported that reoffending is estimated to cost the UK taxpayer between £9.5 and £13.5 billion per year. Currently, re-offending rates can exceed 40 percent and half of all crime is committed by those who have already been through the criminal justice system. However, rates halve where the individual gains employment on release.

Andy Gullick, Chief Executive of RSE and an alumnus of the University, said: “At RSE we offer tailored, practical advice to some of the most marginalised in society and this includes prisoners and former prisoners who are interested in becoming self-employed.

“It’s the practical things like insurance and general business start-up information which can often represent barriers to entry. We already support over 300 prisoners with this advice and we’ll be significantly expanding that number in the near future so it’s great to have a student-led project team from UCLan on board to support those who want a second, better chance, showing them there is a way to avoid getting trapped in the cycle of reoffending.”

Through the virtual self-employment support clinic UCLan students from a variety of business-related courses** will advise clients while gaining practical experience in the process.

Alexandra Brown, 32, from Rossendale is a first-year student studying international business. She volunteered for the project to make the most of her experience at UCLan. “This initiative is a fantastic opportunity to contribute to a worthwhile cause, which will really help people,” Alexandra explained. “At the same time, I’ll be able to expand my knowledge and skills whilst meeting other participating students and gaining volunteering experience.”

Debbie Wood, Lecturer in Accounting and Finance from UCLan’s School of Business, added: “RSE’s self-employment service is a unique offering and students and academics are excited to be involved in supporting such a worthwhile initiative. We hope the virtual clinic, with planned monthly webinars, will provide our students with a fantastic real-world learning opportunity while helping individuals to make small steps in rebuilding their lives.”

For more information on the virtual self-employment clinic, please contact Andy Gullick at RSE.

*The UCLan Criminal Justice Partnership draws on the knowledge of academics across UCLan and its partner agencies to deliver evidence-based research, evaluation and advice in all areas of Criminal Justice. Partners include prisons, probation, third sector and Community Rehabilitation Companies.

**BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance; BA (Hons) Accounting and Financial Studies; BA (Hons) International Business; BA (Hons) Business and Marketing; and the UCLan MBA.