Virgin Trains to recruit from prisons

Image caption Virgin Trains are planning to hold recruitment fairs at prisons across the UK

West Coast Mainline operator Virgin Trains says it has doubled the number of ex-offenders it employs.

The train operator, which runs services between Scotland and London, ran a recruitment fair at Addiewell Prison, West Lothian, this week.

More will be held in prisons across the UK every three months.

Virgin Trains said it wanted to help end the "revolving door syndrome" of reoffending. It is also encouraging other companies to take part.

The company has been actively recruiting ex-offenders since 2013.

Twelve people with convictions were employed by Virgin Trains in 2014 as part of the contract for the West Coast route.

There are currently 27 people working in the business who were recruited through the programme, the firm said.

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Kathryn Wildman, who leads recruitment on the West Coast line, said going into prisons had proved a successful way of finding "talented candidates" for jobs in the company.

She said: "This isn't just about helping society and giving people a chance to turn their lives around. It's hiring the best people no matter what their background is.

"We'd urge other employers who might be thinking about this to give it a go."

Virgin Trains has established partnerships with HM Prison Service, the Scottish Prison Service and private prison operators to work with inmates who are nearing the end of their sentences.

John, 23, a former Scots Guard who used to carry out ceremonial duties in London, is taking part in the scheme.

'Better outlook'

He told the Good Morning Scotland programme the opportunity was really important to him. He added: "I'd say personally it's given me a lot more confidence than I had at the start. I'm really enjoying it. It's given me a chance to change [my] live and making me improve ourselves.

"I've been in and out of here for the last couple of years.

"I've left a couple of times with nothing so this has given me a chance to support my wee boy again and given me a better outlook on life and just hopefully people will give me a chance."

Scotland's Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, said supporting people into work when they came out of custody was an essential part of their reintegration, and helped to reduce the chances of them offending again.

He said: "We are working with the public sector, including the Scottish Prison Service, and private businesses to make it easier for people with convictions to find employment.

"Virgin Trains are very supportive of this work and I am delighted to hear of this latest partnership with HMP Addiewell to tackle the barriers which prevent people from turning their lives around."

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