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This morning I am showing some visitors around LandWorks…

“Can’t they all just get jobs? Mr Timpson the shoe repairer and that Virgin man do it so well”

I get asked this quite a lot, and on a rather superficial level it is fair comment, there are some good initiatives by one or two big employers out there, Timpson’s in particular. But it’s far from the whole picture, perhaps ill-informed by daily newspapers.

On another level (and more frequently these days) this lack of understanding tips me over the edge, voices thunder around in my head, sometimes fearing that the expletives going off inside me may be audible!

Because a growing number of small businesses in Britain quietly just do this and go completely unnoticed. Supporting a young person here, or somebody struggling over there, some with convictions, a bit of a past. I should know, from 1988 until LandWorks started in 2013, I was a ‘Small to Medium-sized Employer’ (SME).

Here’s an example (one of so many) … This SME is a landscaping business. A family business, in Scotland, currently employing around 5 people. Like so many SMEs often taking on a young lad whose wayward behaviour has got him into the early stages of trouble. This family firm extends its caring values and supports these guys. Some stay on, some move on, but generally not deeper into the criminal justice system.

These SMEs, many differing businesses, are all over Britain, they rarely get properly recognised or supported. They’re just doing what they feel is right, supporting others who need a helping hand.

In many ways I was extremely fortunate. One day (about 17 years ago) I found myself explaining the complexities of trying to support someone, or several someones, with a conviction (it is a really tough business model). The couple listening were not only very patient, entrepreneurial in outlook, but incredibly supportive and together we developed a system of sponsorship.

In effect their sponsorship of employees with a conviction (on probation) covered some of my employment costs. Thus, reducing the risk of employing somebody with no experience straight out of prison. It worked, many times.

… Going back to my visitors earlier in the day. I now most frequently reply that many of our great local employers (SMEs) could do more if there were some direct employment support.

Not an apprenticeship (great, but a little too complex in this instance), but a simple scheme that understands the intricacies that these particular employees bring.


  • HMRC should cancel the employer’s National Insurance contribution for those on probation, for at least the first year.
  • Each employee would be assigned a dedicated employment support worker, to help smooth out the inevitable bumps on the journey (a role we provide at LW).

Those SMEs already doing this work would get the recognition and support they deserve, and many more might just join their ranks.


23rd June 2022