Former High Sheriff of Oxfordshire Tom Birch Reynardson has raised over £20,000 for an innovative project run by local charity Aspire Oxford, which will reduce re-offending rates across Oxfordshire.
The money was raised from the successful lecture given by Jonathan Aitken at the Said Business School on 7th April 2016, organised by Mr Birch Reynardson during his time as High Sheriff. Guests at the lecture were encouraged to donate to the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire’s Charitable Fund, which is held and managed by Oxfordshire Community Foundation to be used by each High Sheriff during their year of office.
The lecture saw 300 influential business people come together to tackle the growing issue of re-offending rates across the county. In HMP Bullingdon, the rate of re-offending for people with less than 12 months’ sentence is 61%. The period immediately after leaving prison is when ex-offenders are most at risk of re-offending, but if the right support is given at the right time, re-offending will be reduced.
The money raised at the lecture will go towards an innovative new project run by Aspire Oxford called Through the Gate. This project will see Aspire engaging with ex-offenders in local prisons prior to their release. Aspire can offer ex-offenders instant support, work experience, mentoring and training to help them build their confidence and move into employment. A further £10,000 has been raised for this project through other sources.
Jonathan Aitken says: “This generous £20,000 gift by the people of Oxfordshire to the High Sheriff’s Charitable Fund gets Aspire Oxford’s Through the Gate project off to a flying start. By engaging with offenders while they are still in prison, Aspire will guide many of them into law-abiding lives. I predict that this will be a major breakthrough for reducing reoffending in Oxfordshire.”
Paul Roberts, Chief Operating Officer of Aspire Oxford, says: “We are delighted by the success of the Jonathan Aitken lecture and are extremely grateful to Tom Birch Reynardson for his support. The money raised from this event will mean that we can engage with 50 ex-offenders before they are released, giving them the structure and support they need at this critical time in their transition. Aspire has 15 years’ experience engaging with ex-offenders and supporting them through our work programme and into employment. Last year, 97.5% of the ex-offenders we worked with did not re-offend. We know that given the right support and life chances, they can offer a huge amount both in the workplace and to their local communities.”
Tom Birch Reynardson comments: “Re-offending costs this country in excess of £13 billion each year. The Prime Minister described the rate of re-offending as ‘scandalous’, and he is right. Aspire has proved that with relatively small sums of money the rate of re-offending can be radically reduced. I am delighted that the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire’s Charitable Fund has been able to raise this money for Aspire. I am also extremely grateful to Jonathan Aitken and Leroy Skeete, who made excellent presentations at the Said Business School, for giving their time to support this excellent initiative.”
Sarah Taylor, the current High Sheriff, adds: “I think that Aspire do extraordinary work with offenders to try and reduce re-offending rates, and I am delighted that Tom Birch Reynardson during his year as High Sheriff has been able to raise this significant sum to help them.”
The money raised at the event will be presented to Aspire Oxford on Tuesday 7th June by Sarah Taylor and Tom Birch Reynardson.