23 September, 2021, London: Flag-bearing former convicts on horseback descended on the Mansion House today, where Alderman William Russell, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, awarded the first 15 UK companies to employ ex-offenders through the prestigious YOUNITED Flag award.
The YOUNITED FLAG award – launched in September 2019 by music legend Nile Rodgers together with crime prevention charity, Key4Life - encourages companies to employ ex-offenders and give them another chance, rewarding those that do with the prestigious YOUNITED Flag kitemark.
The 15 companies awarded the YOUNITED Flag today are: Acorn Recruitment, Avalara, Bouygues, Dent Global, MediaCom, Purple Hire Solutions, SheerLuxe, Sir Robert McAlpine, Social Pantry, Sony Music, St James, Trade Windows, Yeo Valley, Willis Towers Watson and Willmott Dixon.
Key4Life will extend the YOUNITED FLAG award to many more companies UK-wide next year, in association with the Corbett Network.
The special awards ceremony at Mansion House also celebrated the 9th birthday of Key4Life, which has an unrivalled track record for transforming the lives of some of the most disaffected young men in Britain. Key4Life reduces re-offending through its innovative rehabilitation programme for young men in prison and those at risk of going to prison, saving lives by helping to break the cycle of crime. Running programmes in London and the South West, the charity uses equine therapy, music, mentorship and employability training to help the young men heal and become valuable contributors to society. Horses play a vital part in rehabilitating the men, both inside and out of prison.
Alderman William Russell said: “I’m honoured to present the YOUNITED Flag awards. It’s remarkable to see graduates from rehabilitation programmes attaining impressive corporate roles because some one cared enough, for long enough, to change their lives. Employing ex-offenders offers the chance to include a new perspective in the workplace and provides a genuine opportunity to do something meaningful by offering these young men a second chance.”
Eva Hamilton, Founder and CEO of Key4Life says: “Research shows that 50% of corporate Britain would not hire ex-offenders, and yet having a job is the crucial success factor for men with convictions. With reoffending costing the UK government £18.1 Billion a year, the YOUNITED Flag award highlights how employing ex-offenders can drive change by dispelling stereotypes and removing unfair prejudice.”
Ex-offender Liam Meredith, who worked for YOUNITED FLAG award recipient, Yeo Valley, for three years before recently setting up his own ice cream and burger van business in collaboration with Key4Life and Yeo Valley, said: “I’m hugely grateful to both Key4Life and Yeo Valley for helping me rebuild my life. Without more companies giving men with convictions opportunities, we can’t break the cycle of crime. We’ve made our mistakes, we can’t deny that, but now we want change. So my message to other companies is that if you aren’t going to be part of the solution by giving ex-offenders another chance, you’re part of the problem.”
Liam and some fellow Key4Life rappers featured on the new Key4Life Vol. 1 EP, produced by Sony Music (released 15 October), will shortly be closing the YOUNITED Flag awards ceremony with a short private performance of extracts from the EP. Guests will then gather to enjoy lunchtime burgers served from Key4Life’s Food Cell – a former prison van, turned burger van which gives ex-offenders valuable business skills and experience to help them get future work.
This afternoon, Lord Mayor William Russell will challenge companies to employ ex-offenders as part of the Recruiting from a Different Talent Pool conference led by the Corbett Network.