Case study

Sarah – I've got everything I've ever wanted

How the Timpson Foundation helped a prisoner get a job and accommodation and rebuild relationships.

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Sarah – I've got everything I've ever wanted

Sarah was in and out of care and ended up in prison where she met Dennis from the Timpson Foundation. They offered her a job, helped with a deposit for a place to live and helped rebuild relations with her foster family.

Watch the video to hear Sarah talking about her experience. The video also features Dennis Phillips, head of the Timpson Foundation.

Sarah’s video youtube

Read the video transcript

Sarah’s story

Proudly holding her trophy and posing with the Board of Directors for photographs, Sarah could barely believe she’d been named ‘New Starter of the Year’. In a few months she’d rapidly progressed from an apprentice to store manager.

But just 12 months ago, Sarah was in Askham Grange prison serving a five-year sentence.

“I didn’t want to be alive. I didn’t have anyone in my life I could turn to and I couldn’t see any sort of future at all. I thought I’d end up in the gutter,” said Sarah. “One day the Head of Education asked me to attend a meeting where a representative from Timpson was coming in to Askham to recruit people. That’s when I met Dennis. A few weeks later he came back with an area manager to give me a second interview and they offered me a job in Leeds.”

The Timpson Foundation

Dennis Phillips, head of the Timpson Foundation, works with 65 prisons across the UK. With over 90 colleagues working in Timpson and Max Spielmann stores on Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) and working full-time after their release, the Timpson Foundation has shown that what they do is not only good for society, but good for business.

Dennis explains: “I work closely with the Governors and Resettlement Teams within the prisons to carry out risk assessments and recruit people with the right personalities to work for us. They work for us on ROTL, travelling out of prison to work five days a week, including Saturday, and we train them with all the skills they’ll need. On release they have a full-time job with us and if they do need any assistance with getting together a deposit for accommodation or help to buy a fridge or some furniture, we’ll help with that too.”

Alongside the Timpson Foundation, there are also three successful Timpson training academies in Wandsworth, Liverpool and Forrest Bank prisons, and a Max Spielmann academy in New Hall prison.

Sharing expertise

Sarah travelled from Askham Grange to work at Max Spielmann in Yorkshire for six months. Upon her release, the Foundation supported Sarah to move to a store in the North West, where she was quickly promoted to store manager.

Sarah said: “I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted. I’ve built a relationship back up with my foster parents, I rent my own house and I’ve got a great job that I absolutely love and know is going places if I keep working hard. I truly never believed my life would end up like this at all, and it’s all because of the support I’ve had from Timpson.”

Sarah plans to become more closely involved in the work of the Foundation in the coming years, helping people get the same opportunity she received.

Through the Business In The Community forum, the Timpson Foundation is now working with other businesses to share their expertise and encourage them to work in a similar way.

Dennis is working closely with these companies, taking them in to prisons, educating them in Timpson’s simplistic approach and explaining details such as risk assessments, disclosures and release plans.

Dennis has already conducted interviews on behalf of some of these companies and employed 12 people for them as a result. He will be expanding his work with more businesses in the coming months.

Only around 10% of the people we work with re-offend

Dennis adds: “Our retention rate through the Foundation is phenomenal, and that’s because of the support we give people. Specifically for colleagues who have come through ROTL with us, which includes some lifers, our retention rate is 96%. Without doubt, we’re reducing the re-offending rate – only around 10% of the people we work with re-offend. As businesses we can all do our bit to help get people working and off benefits, paying tax, and get their lives back on track.

“Someone like Sarah is living proof that what we do is good for society and good for business. You can see she took on the opportunity, worked hard and thoroughly deserves to be where she is today.”

Video transcript


Basically, I was brought up in care and had a few upheavals when I was growing up. Not that that really matters, but it’s a bit of a contributing factor. I left my foster parents’ home when I was 15 and moved out on my own and went through disaster after disaster. My mum died when I was 16 and I sort of went off the rails completely, even though I still managed to hold down a few jobs, things like that.

I ended up getting into an abusive relationship when I was; I think I was about 23. And after that had finished I tried to commit suicide. When I went to prison I was just sort of thinking, well there’s nothing I can do about it, there was nothing on the outside I was pining for, I was just didn’t care about anything or anyone really.

I moved from closed prison to open prison in May 2009 and basically when you’re in open prison and sometimes in closed, you have this thing called ROTL which means Release on Temporary Licence and it allows you to go out to work. Some prisoners go out to work and just do the things a normal working person would do. But the only difference is that they go back into prison afterwards. And I was told by the education manager at Askham Grange that there was a representative from Timpson coming in and I was asked to go down and meet him.

There were about 20 other girls. We all had a short interview with him, that was Dennis and then I was asked back for a second interview with him and the area manager and I got offered a full time position.


Timpson and Max Spielmann is a business normally on the high street. We currently have 900 branches, 700 which are Timpson 200 which are Max Spielmann.

My role is basically working with prisons and conducting interviews either for the ROTL and finding placements for people who are then released from prison, or work experience from prison.

And Sarah is working out of our Leeds branch. And Sarah really proved herself working. She got on with the team. The Max Spielmann colleagues within the branch respected her for what she could do for the business. She got on really well with the colleagues in the branch.

In terms of our statistics, our retention rate through the Timpson Foundation is currently running about 76%. I think the re-offending rate is probably higher than that, I think it’s about 78%. So we’re actually probably beating that, or matching that, which to me is fantastic. It proves to me that by adopting our simplistic recruitment approach, offering support on release, we are retaining good colleagues. So it’s good for the business, but it’s also good for society and it’s good for the Government because these guys are not re-offending. So we’re actually reducing re-offending as a company.


Very, very recently I was nominated for best newcomer of the year award. Well the nomination wasn’t recently but I’ve only just won it. So that was great and I’ve just been promoted to branch manager.

My life’s pretty good at the minute to be fair. I’ve got my own house, I’ve got a job that I love, I’ve got great friends and I’m doing really well within the company that I work for. I never thought for a second that my life would turn out like this. I thought I’d either be dead or just living in the gutter somewhere. So it’s pretty immense.

End slide

The Timpson Foundation works with 65 prisons across the UK to provide full employment for ex-offenders. They also provide extra assistance on release if needed, such as help with accommodation, buying a fridge or some furniture.

The Timpson Foundation has shown that what they do is not only good for society, but good for business.

“I’ve got everything I ever wanted, I’ve got a great job and truly never believed my life would end up like this.”

Published 16 April 2013