Tammy Moreton has been given the opportunity to rewrite her future, thanks to a full-time job with Virgin Trains. Find out how it happened…
Everyone has regrets and none more so than 23-year-old Tammy Moreton from Birmingham. Tammy is an ex-offender but unlike many other people who regret their past, she has been able to put hers behind her and she now has a job that she loves. She has also been brave enough to speak out about the challenges of moving on from a prison record – something that most people would want to keep under wraps.
Tammy has been working full-time with the Revenue Protection Team at Virgin Trains on the west coast for the past 10 months, following an 18-month apprenticeship. She is one of 25 colleagues currently employed as part of Virgin Trains’ employment programme for ex-offenders which was established at the end of 2011. The initiative was the brainchild of Richard Branson who believes strongly that ex-offenders should not be ignored by potential employers because of their criminal record.
“It makes sense for UK companies to recruit these individuals and use their skills and enthusiasm,” he says. He also hopes that in the future, ex-offenders could represent up to 10 per cent of the whole Virgin Group workforce.
By law, someone with a ‘spent’ conviction or caution cannot be turned down for a job because of that conviction. But criminal record checks are becoming increasingly common, and many job application forms ask ex-offenders to reveal themselves by ticking a box.
If, like Tammy, you desperately want to forget your past, it can be difficult to move on. She joined the army at 16, was discharged at 17 and fell in with the wrong crowd. “When I came out of the army, things went downhill for me,” she says now. “I committed crimes that I’m not proud of. I was in and out of prison three or four times and, eventually, I realised that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life like that.”
By 2012, Tammy was ready to turn her life around but changing direction was tricky. “Once I was released, I found it really hard to get a job – I was constantly visiting the Job Centre and I did all sorts of courses,” she remembers. “But once you’ve ticked the box that tells people you’re an ex-offender, no one wants to give you a chance.”
Through her prison mentor, Marie-Claire O’Brien, and her charity New Leaf, Tammy took part in a transport services course run by the Prince’s Trust. Work experience with Virgin Trains followed, and she was then offered an apprenticeship. No one could be more delighted with the outcome than Tammy herself.
“When this opportunity came up, I knew from the outset that this was what I wanted to do,” she says. “I went on the assessment day and I just didn’t give up. Then one day, I got a phone call to tell me that Virgin were going to take me on.”
Tammy’s manager, Colin Taylor, is enthusiastic about his young recruit: “Tammy has developed both as a person and in the job since she started with us,” he says. “She has really stepped forward and shone. To see her grow from where she first started is brilliant.”
Sadly, it would have been all too easy for Tammy to return to petty crime. According to the latest Government figures, 45.5 per cent of adult offenders released from custody go on to re-offend, and the re-offending rate is consistently higher among those released from short sentences. So, it’s testament to Tammy’s genuine willingness to change that she has been able to move forward in such a positive way.
“By giving people like Tammy a second chance, we gain talented and valuable members of the team,” says Richard. “Ex-prisoners should have the chance to learn from the mistakes of their past and be fully rehabilitated, and UK businesses must play an important role to make sure they succeed.”
In the meantime, Tammy’s future continues to look bright. “Working has turned my life around massively,” she says. “If I didn’t have this job, I honestly don’t know what I would be doing now. This is my chance to prove that I’ve changed, and that giving ex-offenders a second chance really does work.”