Leeds rehabilitation charity plans to go nationwide

TEAM: Members of Tempus Novo in Leeds, who have helped ex offenders into employment.
TEAM: Members of Tempus Novo in Leeds, who have helped ex offenders into employment.

An award-winning rehabilitation charity that helps ex offenders to find work is set to expand nationally.

Tempus Novo, run by two ex HMP Leeds prison officers, is in discussions to set up an office in London.

AWARD: Tempus Novo co-founder Steve Freer, right, with Val Wawrosz and Richard Welsh.

AWARD: Tempus Novo co-founder Steve Freer, right, with Val Wawrosz and Richard Welsh.

Last week the city charity won the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Award for its pioneering efforts steering former prisoners into employment and away from a life of crime.

The charity’s co-founders Steve Freer and Val Wawrosz told the awards ceremony of their long term aim to set up bases in ten major cities to broaden their reforming work.

Since 2014 the Tempus Novo team has mentored more than 270 ex offenders into sustainable jobs.

Tempus Novo CEO Mr Freer said: “There is no reason this can’t be replicated in other cities. We think in five years’ time we could be placing upwards of 500 people per year into jobs. It could be a thousand, it depends on what support we get.”

STAR BACKING: Actor and comedian Sir Lenny Henry spent a day with Tempus Novo while researching for a play.

STAR BACKING: Actor and comedian Sir Lenny Henry spent a day with Tempus Novo while researching for a play.

Tempus Novo has a 98 per cent success rate in finding jobs for its clients. From May 2014 to December 2018 just 6.2 per cent of them were returned to custody. The cost of re-offending is vast. It is calculated that it costs the economy between £13 billion and £15 billion every year.

The annual cost of a prison place alone is put at £35,000 a year.

Tempus Novo, whose work was praised in Parliament in January, has also had some international interest. Mr Freer said: “We’ve actually had a Skype call with a policy research team in Canberra, Australia, which is looking at alternative rehabilitation models for its system.

“It’s a no brainer: Less crime, less victims, safer streets and better value for money for the tax payer. The choice is give these people an opportunity to become part of society or you marginalise them and they carry on committing crimes because they have no choice. Those are the hard facts.”

GOOD EXAMPLE: Richard Welsh, far right, has been helped by Tempus Novo.

GOOD EXAMPLE: Richard Welsh, far right, has been helped by Tempus Novo.

Mr Freer said a key point in their journey was inviting business decision makers into the prison. Mr Freer added: “I will always say to prisoners, ‘This gentleman has come in because he is thinking of giving job interviews to ex offenders when they get out. To a man they will want to shake the hand of that company owner and say ‘thank you’. The company owner will then suddenly think ‘they are human beings’, and that’s a defining moment in what we do because as much as it has to stack up from a business sense, there is also the emotional side and the giving back. And that is how we create that empathy, which is necessary.”

They also needed to find the right people to help. Mr Freer said: “We were drilling up interest from within the walls of people who genuinely wanted to change their lives. Because you are giving an opportunity to a cohort of people who would otherwise be on the scrapheap, they will grab it with both hands and be very loyal.”

He said they had people who have gone on to become incredible employees. They invited one of their biggest success stories, Richard Welsh, down to the recent awards ceremony in London to share the stage with them. Richard spent a decade in and out of prison. But he has been crime-free for around three years after linking up with Tempus Novo. Mr Freer added: “Richard is ‘the example’ of having a job being essential to cutting re-offending rates. There aren’t words to emphasise the transformation. It’s literally life-changing.”