Ex-Cell Solutions is an organisation that develops services to support people who have been out of work long term to find employment in a co-operative workplace where work is secure. For ex-prisoners, Ex-Cell Solutions, is an opportunity to work together for a future away from past crimes through a programme of support and direct employment services including employment and training, sustainable accommodation and support with overcoming drug, alcohol or mental health issues. Ex-Cell Solutions also provides these services for refugees and asylum seekers, recovering drug and alcohol users, homeless people, and people with mental health issues.
Ex-Cell Solutions has achieved phenomenal results with their clients. Ex-offender John, with a criminal history over fourteen years, has become Director of Recycle-IT, a successful cooperative.
John left home at 16 years of age. What followed was a life of crime for fourteen years. Following a work placement and support from Ex-Cell, he is now the Director of Recycle-IT, a successful cooperative. John is now happily married with five children.
John was having difficulties at home, particularly with his step-father. This led him to leaving the family home. He was soon committing petty criminal offences and began having problems with alcohol. Over the next fourteen years John was convicted of twenty-nine criminal offences and served 7 prison sentences.
John’s last criminal offence was in 2000. This was not the end of his problems. John remained homeless and was working as a Big Issue vendor until 2006. It was Big Issue who suggested a possible work placement at Recycle-IT, a computer recycling social enterprise run by Ex-Cell Solutions.
Recycle-IT tapped into a long-held interest that John had in computers from a young age when he enjoyed taking computers apart to see how they worked. Ex-Cell gave John the chance to turn this dormant hobby into a career. Initially, Recycle-IT offered John a six-month placement and supported him to find accommodation. By the end of his placement, Ex-Cell employed John as a manager for Recycle-IT.
Ex-Cell works closely with other organisations
Based in Manchester, Ex-Cell works closely with the Prison Service, Probation Service, Manchester City Council, Lifeline, Addaction, and the Greater Manchester Community Chaplaincy to provide accommodation and find paid work placements for homeless ex-offenders.
Ex-Cell also provides support to overcome problems with drugs, alcohol or mental health issues over a six-month placement period. This enables ex-offenders to gain the skills to sustain their home and job in the future.
Ex-Cell works. The rate of re-offending while on the Ex-Cell programme is less than 2 percent. This is in stark contrast to figures published in November 2016 which show that in 2014 of all the adult and juvenile offenders who were cautioned, received a non-custodial conviction at court or were released from custody, twenty-five percent of these offenders went on to commit a proven re-offence within a year.
Recycle-IT started out as a funded social enterprise. When the funding ended the Director of Ex-Cell, Dave Nicholson worked to turn the organisation into a cooperative, meaning a business owned and run jointly by its members.
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. Establishing cooperatives is now a key element in Ex-Cell’s success as people are treated as colleagues, not service users. There is equality and the wish to help one another to have a life that does not include crime.
Some ex-offenders who join Ex-Cell are supported to set up their own business rather than have a standard work placement. This allows Ex-Cell and those who are referred to them, to work together to create their own jobs.
Ex-Cell is the only organisation in the country providing cooperative development services for ex-offenders, and we are accredited with Cooperatives UK as a Cooperative Development Body.
Recycle-IT has been successfully trading as a cooperative under the management of John and two other ex-offenders and is now based in Lancashire. Ex-Cell have since set up another four cooperatives, with more on the way.
Establishing a cooperative is much more intensive than finding a work placement, meaning Ex-Cell initially worked with fewer people. This is balanced by the number of homeless ex-offenders the cooperatives themselves will all employ, leading to increasing opportunities over time.
The results of RecycleIT have been phenomenal. John is now the Director of Recycle-IT and is happily married with five children. He runs the business with others who were like him, from the streets. With training and support from the School for Social Entrepreneurs to broaden their skill set, they have been able to run and grow the business successfully. Recycle IT is now one of the largest not-for-profit IT recyclers in the UK. Alongside diverting IT equipment from landfill, the company provide cheap refurbished computers for the local community and have launched a computer club.
The opportunity given to ex-offenders by Ex-Cell has created a community that wishes to pass on what was freely given to them, to other ex-offenders wanting to take a new path. Recycle-IT offers ex-offenders the chance to move on from their poor decisions, shake off the associated guilt to build a sustainable future for themselves, their families and other ex-offenders in the community. With offending rates from Ex-Cell clients so low, the results are phenomenal.