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.
More to explore
Podcast with Engage Customer
How business can offer ex-offenders a better chance
It is widely reported that staff turnover in the call centre industry is around 26% annually, considerably above the national average of 15%.