Prisoners work in a call centre: attack on jobs?

Kenneth ClarkeMax Nash/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Kenneth Clarke's plan to get prisoners working and help prepare them for a return to normal life has seen a new first: prisoners will be manning the phones at a renewable energy call centre in return for £15 a day.

But is this sensible rehabilitation, or an attack on jobs?

Better for prisoners?

Becoming Green, a renewable energy company selling things like solar panels and home insulation, has taken on 23 people from HMP Prescoed to work in its call centre.

In a statement, Becoming Green said: "Corporations should have a social responsibility to help society. If they work with this attitude and behaviour it will help make a better society for all."

The prisoners will be offered 'work experience' in the call centre in order to improve their CVs and give them useful skills to help them turn their lives around on release. They will be driven from the prison to the office, and will be answering phone calls from people responding to adverts.

In return, 12 of them will receive money to cover their meals - which works out at £15 a day. They can pay this rate for 40 days while the individuals compete work experience. Once the work experience period is over, if they are taken on, they will receive the minimum wage. Of this they will keep 60%, and the other 40% will go into a fund to compensate victims.

The prisoners in question are on day-release - which is already a commonplace approach to allow prisoners to gain work experience before full release. Prisoners are assessed before taking part in this type of scheme and will have been ruled unlikely to abscond or re-offend.

There are arguments that this is a useful step for the prisoners. However, Prisoners' Families Voices, a blog which seeks to represent the views of prisoners, said: "5 hours work wouldn't even buy them a pint of milk and a loaf of bread. Modern day slavery at its best! "

What about the workers?

Union bosses are concerned about the workforce too. They are worried that offering employers cut-price prisoners for the workplace could encourage them to favour inmates over fully-paid employees. Unite told the BBC it was "going back to slave labour".

Yet it's worth considering whether this criticism is completely fair. The company is currently recruiting and expanding around the country, and looking for a variety of full-time employees, and is confident that no full time staff lost their position for these inmates to take roles on. Since the scheme started, they have take on 90 employees - fewer than a third of which were inmates.

At the same time, there are plenty of businesses offering work experience with no pay, and for those inmates taken on long-term, pay reverts to the minimum wage. By comparison, this scheme seems generous.

But what do you think? let us know in the comments.

Ten most hated professions in the UK
See Gallery
Prisoners work in a call centre: attack on jobs?

They might think they're masters of the universe. We know they've dobbed the rest of us in it. After lending out recklessly, they are blamed for causing the financial crisis. Even after they had to be bailed out by taxpayers, they still give themselves obscene bonuses.

Have the power to enter your home and seize your possessions. Debt collectors are a form of bailiff-lite. They can 'only' write, phone or visit your home to talk about the debt. Don't bother bringing out the best china.

Last year's heavy snow meant lost parking revenue, as attendants were stopped from handing out as many tickets as normal. Edinburgh Council lost more than £700k in parking revenue in just two weeks. Expect parking wardens to redouble their efforts as they make up for that in the rest of 2011.

Yes, there are honourable exceptions. There are also reasons why these guys have the reputation they do.

Not as venal as some on the list. But some of these guys would persuade their granny to sell for £50,000 less than her home is really worth. Just so they can get a deal done and take their commission. It's always one story with them when you're selling. Another when you're buying.

Not independent, despite what they claim. Until big changes in the law come into effect in the next couple of years, they are paid on commission. So it's in their interest to stuff clients into whichever products pay them the most - it doesn't matter whether the product is any good or not.

These guys will charge you for yawning. But there's no fighting them. They set up the system and know best how to work it.  The ultimate parasites? But then, they earn so much money what do they care what other people think?

It's 6.30pm, the hour when hell gates open for every parent. The phone rings. It turns out to be a gentleman from Bangladesh, selling you phones in indescribably bad English.

Low barriers to entry mean spamming is on the rise. Experts expect 7 trillion spam messages to be sent this year, costing millions in lost productivity and fraud. Internet service providers are among those worst affected. They have been forced to add extra capacity to carry the messages.

An out-of-place figure on your tax return, or big fluctuation from year to year could be enough to prompt a dreaded tax inspection. Since 2009 HM Revenue and Customers have been able to check a wider range of payments than before. Previously they could only look at VAT and employer returns. Now they have the power to inspect income tax, capital gains, PAYE and corporation tax


More stories
Read Full Story