Clink prison charity set for national expansion

The Clink restaurant in Brixton Prison

A charity that grew in Brixton Prison is set to expand across the England and Wales, reducing reoffending rates and providing catering staff to fill gaps created by Brexit.

The growth will be made possible by a three-year £6m commitment by the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust to fund The Clink charity’s Clink Kitchens project.

It is the latest project developed by the charity as part of its Clink Integrated Rehabilitation Programme (CIRP).

The charity has been working with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) for the past 11 years, delivering its unique training programme to prisoners on the inside and on release.

The concept of The Clink Restaurant was created by Alberto Crisci MBE, then catering manager at HMP High Down in Surrey.

He recognised potential in the prisoners working in the kitchens and introduced accredited City & Guilds training.

The third Clink restaurant, after High Down and Cardiff, opened in Brixton in February 2014 – gaining national publicity and acclaim, thanks to its London setting.

Clink charity chief executive Christopher Moore said the generosity of Julia and Hans Rausing and grant-maintaining trusts and philanthropists would enable it to bring The Clink Kitchens project to 70 prisons in England and Wales over the next three years.

“The Clink, in partnership with HMPPS, changes attitudes, transforms lives and creates second chances by training serving prisoners during their sentence and then helping them reintegrate back into society, employment and accommodation upon release,” Moore said.

“Reoffending remains one of the most pressing challenges facing society today,” he added.

Clink’s three-year programme will enable as many as 2,000 men and women in prisons to achieve qualifications in hospitality and gain employment when released – something proven to dramatically reduce reoffending.

The programme will be delivered in main prison kitchens by trainers and assessors who are all hospitality industry professionals.

Prisoners will be able to volunteer for training while working in prison kitchens that prepare and cook more than 80,000 hot meals a day.

The Clink Integrated Rehabilitation Programme remains with students at every stage of their training.

From working with students on the inside to meeting graduates at the gate upon release, The Clink Charity ensures each Clink graduate is supported in the community for a minimum of 12 months.

The hugely successful collaboration between The Clink Charity and HMPPS is now able to replicate and scale up the learnings of CIRP over the past 11 years, the charity said.

old building
Brixton Prisonb’s Clink restaurant is in the former governor’s house

It will be able to increase the number of students in training daily from 220 to 800 a day.

Nationally, almost half (48%) of those released from prison reoffend within the first 12 months of release.

The Clink Charity was set up to break this cycle and, in turn, support the hospitality industry.

Its five-step training programme is for prisoners in their last six to 18 months of their sentence.

When released, Clink graduates are placed into full-time employment and accommodation.

Research by the Justice Data Lab and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in July 2019 found that prisoners participating in the charity’s training programme are 32% less likely to reoffend than those who did not.

A Pro Bono Economics impact report published in June 2020 revealed that the charity’s programme delivers an outstanding return on investment.

For every £1 invested, The Clink is likely to generate at least £4.80 back for the prison service, government and society in reduced reoffending rates as a result of its CIRP programme.

The UK hospitality industry employs 6m people and is the fourth largest employer of labour in the UK.

Brexit has created many vacancies. It is estimated that 300,000 industry professionals have returned to Europe over the past 18 months.

Due to the pandemic, some workers have experience of working in other trades and do not plan to return to the hospitality industry.

The Clink charity is confident it has a credible solution to this by introducing highly trained, work-ready Clink graduates to employers when they are released.

Clink Kitchens training has already started at Brixton and four other prisons.

The Clink will recruit chef trainers and support workers over the next three months so that it can start training at the next 18 prisons, taking the number of Clink Kitchens training programmes to 24 by the end of this year.

Another 36 sites are planned for 2022.