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Employment and training

Four new social entrepreneurs join Incubate, Accelerate, Amplify

A sign is positioned on an easel which reads "Incubate, Accelerate and Amplify". The sign looks like the night sky, with star constellations, planets and a rocket depicted around the edges.

Earlier this year, we challenged ourselves to find the next generation of social entrepreneurs, who have future-focused ideas to improve public service delivery.

After assessing 75 applications and 21 interviews, we’ve found four social entrepreneurs to join Catch22’s Incubate, Accelerate, Amplify programme. They will all be following in the footsteps of the likes of:

All of our social entrepreneurs have direct experience of the problems that they are trying to tackle, what we call lived or learnt experience. Rather than be defeated by their experiences, each of them are using their personal insights to drive much-needed change in communities across England and Wales.

In our previous blog, we shared what we learnt from the application process and how we’ll improve it. Here we announce who we are backing and why:

Jacob Hill – Offploy

What is the problem he is trying solve?

Over 11 million people in the UK have a conviction. Many find it difficult to find employment, with employer attitudes being one of the main barriers to finding work. A 2016 YouGov survey, for example, found that 50% of employers would not consider employing an offender or an ex-offender. With paths to legitimate employment blocked, many ex-offenders re-offend, costing the UK taxpayer over £16bn a year.

What is his solution?

In 2016, Jacob set up Offploy, a social enterprise formed by ex-prisoners to help those with convictions secure meaningful, mentored and sustainable employment. In doing so, Offploy aims to help the UK address its chronic skills shortage, reduce re-offending and make society safer. Based in Yorkshire and the Humber, Offploy has secured employment for over 140 people to date.

Why are we backing Jacob?

Jacob is a proven entrepreneur who has bounced back from failure, using his own lived experience of the problem to develop a model that is showing early signs of success. We want to help Offploy as it grows, so that it is better able to support ex-offenders into work in more locations across England and Wales. We also want to work with Offploy to unlock more partnerships with employers. With unemployment sitting at just under 4% and uncertainty due to Brexit, we think there is a real opportunity to work with employers who have never even considered employing ex-offenders.

“I’m excited to work with Catch22 over the next two years to help grow our service to a national level. This will help us support more people with convictions into employment, reduce reoffending and make society safer.”

– Jacob Hill, Offploy

Puja Balachander and Laura White – Devie

What is the problem they are trying to solve?

In the UK, developmental gaps in early childhood can create lifelong, intergenerational inequality, and current evidence indicates parenting is the biggest factor influencing these gaps. This readiness gap continues to compound through years of schooling. A study by The Sutton Trust found that half the gaps in achievement at age 11 are due to inequality that was already present at age 5.

What is their solution?

Laura and Puja have created Devie, a virtual coach which supports parents’ wellbeing and encourages parent-led behaviour change by providing guidance via one-to-one interactions on WhatsApp. The coach, available free to all users, will help parents set parenting goals and provide support to achieve them.

Why are we backing Puja and Laura?

Laura and Puja are a great team with a complementary set of skills and experiences; Laura is an early education teacher, while Puja is a social impact designer. We’re excited by Devie as we think it can complement pre-existing family support services, which aren’t always able to meet the needs of parents. And while we firmly believe that humans are better at building trust, empathising and responding sensitively to complex situations, we are keen to lend our expertise in public service delivery  to support this exciting technology.

“In the two years with Catch22’s help, we aim to be supporting 50,000 parents to work towards their parenting goals. We’d also like to have measured and validated our impact on child outcomes, secured our first few paying business to business customers, grown our core team, and secured the equity investment necessary to continue growing.”

– Puja Balachander and Laura White

Mifta Choudhury – Youth Ink

What is the problem he is trying to solve?

Over 42% of children and young people re-offend within twelve months of being released. While the causes are complex, research shows that perpetrators of youth violence often lack any kind of relationship with a trusted adult.

What is his solution?

Youth Ink, founded by Mifta in 2016, aims to reduce reoffending rates by bringing young people, who have varying degrees of involvement in the youth justice system, together with ex-offenders, who are trained as peer supporters. A key part of Youth Ink’s work is training young people to become part of its Peer Support Navigator Network, which co-produces effective youth justice interventions.

Why are we backing Mifta?

We think that peer mentoring interventions focused on the youth justice system are much needed. Early research shows, for example, that they can “help to facilitate the process of change, including healing, growth and identity transformation” amongst young people who are involved. This is borne out by Mifta’s work, which is already changing the lives of young people for the better in Southwark, London and for which he received a commendation from the Butler Trust in 2018.

We are particularly excited by Youth Ink’s focus on building capacity within the offending community. At present, offenders and ex-offenders are not as involved in reforming services and systems as they could be. This is a missed opportunity as they have  insights on the causes of crime, the effectiveness of the system and the barriers to successful rehabilitation. We look forward to supporting Youth Ink as it develops its delivery model and reshapes its governance structures.

“Youth Ink was founded upon the belief that offering responsibility to young people is the key to breaking the cycle of exclusion, offending and re-offending. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved to date and are now looking forward to working with Catch22 as we continue the work of reducing re-offending in the youth justice system.”

– Mifta Choudhury

Tracy Hammond – Recrewt

What is the problem she is trying to solve?

While there are record levels of employment in the UK, adults with learning disabilities still face barriers to finding employment. In fact, there are nearly 715,000 work-capable yet unemployed people with learning disabilities. While 6% of people with learning disabilities are in work, 65% would like to be.

What is her solution?

Tracy plans to setup a recruitment agency that works with ethical employers who will provide opportunities for which she will recruit and train adults with learning disabilities.

Why are we backing Tracy?

Tracy developed her idea at KeyRing, a charity which supports vulnerable adults to live independently, where she serves as Director of Research and Innovation and has worked for over 15 years. She has a deep understanding of the types of support that vulnerable adults need, which she combines with a relentless determination to get things done. We look forward to working alongside KeyRing  to support Tracy as she develops and tests her idea.

“With Catch22’s support, in two years we hope to be an established and respected agency, working with a range of employers, in at least two locations to provide a growing throng of people with life-changing employment opportunities.”

– Tracy Hammond