NICOLA:

My Fight

I survived a hammer attack during an extremely violent relationship back in 2005. Remaining in the relationship I lost my children, family and friends. I began to use drugs and life spiralled out of control.

My addiction was funded by my offending – shoplifting, this ultimately saw me go to jail over 11 times. Each time I successfully detoxed but fell back into the vicious cycle of addiction.

The last few occasions in jail I was fortunate to work in the call centre at HMP Peterborough. Going to work each day was my lifeline. Not only was I earning money I was treated as a valued member of the organisation and for those few hours each day I didn’t feel like I was just another prisoner.

During a period of incarceration in 2018 the Census magazine featured an article which changed my life forever. I immediately put myself forward for an employment opportunity to work in their head office. Even though it meant I had to relocate hundreds of miles away, leaving my home, possessions, family and friends but I knew that I would never get an opportunity like this ever again. At 44 years of age, 146 convictions and 11 jail sentences, I knew that if I didn’t grab this opportunity I would be forever stuck in the cycle of addiction, offending and jail.

It didn’t matter that I had various qualifications and skills or years of employment history. I would never find an employer willing to take me on knowing the extent of my offending.

With a new beginning waiting for me, I left jail on the Thursday, returned to my home in Essex for just enough time to pack up a few suitable clothes, my keepsakes and photos. By the Monday I had rented a room and moved hundreds of miles across the country not knowing anyone.

Starting a new job for anyone is a nerve racking experience and I had more than most to be nervous about. My first day seems like a lifetime ago now but I can still recall every detail. I remember being so nervous and anxious about how my past would be judged by my new colleagues. Did they know where I had been recruited from? If they didn’t should I tell them? Would I be treated differently?

I needn’t have worried about anything. From the very first day I realised that this organisation was different, they believed in assisting and supporting individuals like me to change my future and not be defined by past experiences.

I quickly settled in my new job and daily had to pinch myself to ensure that I wasn’t dreaming. Within weeks of my release I was a PAYE employee and felt like a true part of the team. My life completely changed.

Now 18 months later I have achieved so much more than I thought possible. I was rewarded with a promotion earlier this year and I am now proud to be the manager of the life insurance campaign, managing a team of 20+ agents and training those agents in customer service skills. I also lead on quality and compliance and client liaison.

With my own home, a car, soon to go on my 2nd holiday abroad and savings in the bank – my life is so very different. My family and friends are proud of my achievements and I have rebuilt relationships with my family that I never thought would happen.

The chaotic years living day to day, addiction and committing crime are gone, only possible because of the opportunity given to me by Census. I’m eternally grateful for the ongoing support and guidance from the individuals who make up the Census workforce.

I will work as hard as I can and will remain loyal and dedicated to the company. A small token of appreciation for your huge life changing gift.

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Breaking the mould

It is widely reported that staff turnover in the call centre industry is around 26% annually, considerably above the national average of 15%.

Richard rowley

Richard Rowley is the Managing Director at Census Life and is responsible for all criminal justice work the social enterprise undertakes. 

Richard has over 20 years’ experience of working with voluntary, public and private sector organisations in the criminal justice arena and still retains the same desire to support people to become the very best they can be. 

Richard is also very proud to be a Trustee for POPS (Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group) in Manchester. 

On the off-chance he is away from work, you’ll find Richard watching football, cooking and spending time with his family – not necessarily in that order!

Kelly Carrel

Kelly Carrel is the Chief Executive of Census Life and is responsible for leading the strategic direction and overall effectiveness of the organisation.

 Kelly has over 20 years’ experience of working within the Customer Management sector and, over the past 7 years, has used this experience to provide meaningful work experience and relevant training to those farthest from the job market.

Most specifically Kelly is focussed on individuals serving custodial sentences, and working with them during this period to ensure they have opportunities for employment on release. Passionate about pursuing social mobility, through the route of employment, this is the key driver of the work for Kelly and her team.

Outside of the office, Kelly enjoys travelling, martial arts & air acrobatics along with spending time with friends and family.

The Census story

Census Group was founded in 2013 by Ian and Kelly Carrel, following their respective careers working in large scale in-house and outsourced contact centre operations both in the UK and overseas.

In 2010 Criminal Record Bureau (now DBS) background checking was becoming ever more prevalent, regardless of whether the role required it. The founders recognised there was an urgent need to address the issues highlighted by this process, as more contact centre agents were losing roles across the industry with a ‘blanket’ approach being applied to every adverse CRB check. This experience in contact centre environments highlighted a significant frustration – having to let well-trained, enthusiastic staff go when their checks returned showing previous criminal convictions. With attrition rates in the industry reaching levels of >25% we knew we could develop an incredibly competent workforce that would also have a wider impact on society

Through our corporate social responsibility strategy we have consistently reinvested profits, to go the extra mile and support colleagues as they leave prison and reintegrate back into our communities. To make this much more fundamental to our work we have developed Census Life, our not-for-profit social enterprise.