Press release

Charity supporting ex-offenders wins Big Society Award

UR4Driving, an initiative that works with ex-offenders, is the latest winner of a Big Society Award.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The UR4Driving project, part of The Upper Room charity, teaches ex-offenders to drive, in return for voluntary work that supports the charity’s various activities.

UR4Driving works with ex-offenders to help them improve their lives and give them the self-confidence and skills needed to become economically independent and find employment opportunities.

A significant number of those involved in the programme have gone on to secure full or part-time work.

Commenting on the award, Prime Minister David Cameron said:

I would like to congratulate UR4Driving for being the latest winners of the Big Society Award for the work they do to help ex-offenders secure jobs and turn them away from a life of crime.

Amanuel Woldesus, Operations Director of The Upper Room, said:

The Upper Room is delighted to have won this Big Society Award in recognition of the outstanding work of the whole Upper Room team – trustees, staff and especially the enthusiasm of all our volunteers, to improve people’s lives.

Mature individuals understand the benefits of working for a charity as a volunteer, helping the poorest people in London survive, and getting a tangible benefit out of it. They make it through the whole course brilliantly.

Notes to editors

UR4Driving is one part of The Upper Room charity which in addition provides survival support (meals, clothing, and medical screening) to the homeless, a multilingual employment support service and a low-cost food redistribution operation to other homeless charities that are helping to feed homeless and destitute people.

Graduates and institutions that are affected by UR4Driving student successes say:

“I have stayed out of prison for two and a half years now. I have a full-time delivery job, so now I drive all over London and make money at the same time.” CA

“Your programme is one of the most exciting initiatives in tackling re-offending rates that I have ever come across.” Simon Cooper, Probation Officer

“The deal on offer here is brilliant … instead of being a problem they are becoming part of the solution.” Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons

More information can be found by visiting The Upper Room website.

Watch The Upper Room video

On the Big Society Awards

The Big Society Awards were set up by the Prime Minister in November 2010. The aim is to acknowledge individuals and organisations across the UK that demonstrate the Big Society in their work or activities. In so doing, the aim is also to galvanise others to follow.

The award focuses upon three specific areas:

Outstanding contribution to community

  • people, projects and organisations that enable communities to drive change themselves
  • projects and organisations that allow the community to identify solutions
  • people, projects and organisations that inspire others to contribute to their community

Improving lives and society through innovation, collaboration and new partnerships

  • people and organisations taking new approaches to public services
  • successful collaboration and partnerships between public, private and voluntary sector - working together to benefit communities

Engaging in social action

  • people, projects and organisations taking action in their community
  • working together for social change (e.g. through creating groups, campaigns, movements)
  • generosity of time, money, skills and other resources – in support of social action

Launching the awards, the Prime Minister said:

There are some amazing projects and remarkable voluntary work going on in towns and cities up and down the country, by all kinds of organisations from large enterprises to tiny grassroots schemes and inspirational individuals.

These awards are a chance to pay tribute to those making a valuable contribution to their community, the real champions of the Big Society, but perhaps more importantly, I hope they will motivate many others to take action, get involved and drive change in their area.

Nominations come in from the general public, after which there follows a process of scoring and short-listing by civil servants, and a further short-listing by a Panel of Ministers and independent external experts. This Panel makes recommendations to the Prime Minister, who makes the final decisions about who to make the award to. Twelve winners are decided each quarter meeting, and then announced once a week throughout the year.

78 winners have been announced to date. For a full list of winners visit the Big Society website.

Published 10 June 2013