It works with a network of employers with an ethos of social value and supports them with initial screening and the risk assessment process. It also provides candidate training and education that may help to gain the ideal job, followed by a six-month mentoring programme.
Richard set it up in light of his experiences in the community and custody at HMP Preston and HMP Kirklevington. By admission, he was dependent on drugs and out of control, and he had reached a low point in his mental health and well-being and contemplated suicide. However, he found support from an unexpected place before coming to jail. He found his faith in God by meeting someone who had previously been in custody and offered to say a prayer for him. This moment enabled Richard to see that he was seen as a human being who needed help, and being forgiven by someone else meant that, in time, he could forgive himself.
Whilst in custody, he decided to find positive ways to seek rehabilitation. This included engaging in his personal development by taking up the education on offer, including Peer Mentoring, where he met an inspirational tutor who gave him the confidence to develop. Knowing that employment on release was one way to develop a firm foundation, he soon realised that the opportunities to engage with employers open to employing ex-offenders were quite limited. However, seeing a gap in the market and therefore being able to provide a solution to the problem was worth investing his time in.
Richard realised that by using his creativity and problem-solving skills, he could develop a viable business plan that would be the seeds of his business. Several programmes were available relating to employability, personal well-being, addiction recovery and resettlement, but in his mind, not a completely mapped-out solution.
Using his time effectively whilst, in custody, he spoke to many men to find out what was missing in their resettlement journey. This market research enabled him to gain insight into their issues and develop a creative solution. In effect, he wanted to be able to restart and “wipe his slate clean”, and the inspiration for Clean Slate Solutions began. There were many obstacles to overcome, and his resilience and positive mindset were needed. Once released back into the community in the Tees area, he set about developing a network of potential supporters who could back his venture to get it started.
This meant using his interpersonal and selling skills to open doors to funders. He had to present and pitch his ideas with passion and confidence to gain his initial funding. He recalls still having a tag on when he pitched successfully to the Vardy Foundation. Since that day, the business has continued to grow and support more and more people in meaningful and sustainable employment.
As a final thought, having been given a community order for his first offence and then a custodial sentence for his second offence, Richard said he would say to his former self, “learn your lesson the first time”.