“Employment For All: breaking down barriers”. The High Sheriff’s conference, Cookham, 15th November

18 November 2018

Graham Barker hosted the High Sheriff’s conference: “Employment for All: breaking down barriers” at the Sir Bernard Miller Conference Centre on 15th November.This was to encourage employers to recruit those with a disability an also ex-offenders. There are many agencies who can help companies identify the best and most suitable candidates from this largely untapped pool of talent.

Speakers on disability included Richard Elliot, Group HR Manager for Manpower Group and Neil Heslop, the Chief Executive of Leonard Cheshire. Trevor Ferguson, the Chief Fire Officer for Berkshire, spoke on Change 100 the Leonard Cheshire initiative on internships for those with a disability. He said this had enabled them to recruit highly talented and committed individuals.

Presenters on recruiting ex-offenders included Simon Edwards, the Commercial Director of Recycling Lives – a company where 40% of its employees are ex-offenders and which attracted a £50 million investment over the summer. Companies like Argos and Costain have found that once a reformed ex-offender has been identified they make a very loyal and committed employee. Julie Elder now HR director for NATS spoke about the positive initiatives that Argos had taken and Rebecca See spoke about the success that Costain had enjoyed in employing ex-offenders.

Personal perspectives were eloquently given by Tim and Paul who are currently finishing their sentences at Spring Hill Prison.

Also present were a range of agencies and charities which can help employers recruit the best people in the fields. The agencies include Ways in Work, Browns Community Services, Enterprise inspiration, BASE -UK, Job Centre Plus and NRAS.

Over 80 delegates attended the conference and included representatives from British Airways, Heathrow Community Fund, Ascot Racecourse, KP snacks, John Lewis, Costain, Marriott Hotels and many others.

The High Sheriff said: “I am delighted at the level of interest in this conference which derives from my themes of Community and Compassion. I believe the conference demonstrated that the enormous benefits that can follow if a company’s core values embraces engagement in the community. The message from the speakers was loud and clear: if you can tackle the barriers created by perception, companies can gain many benefits from employing those with a disability and those who are reformed ex-offenders. With all the assistance available to select the right person, there is little downside and much to be gained for all concerned.”


Neil Heslop OBE, Chief Executive of Leonard Cheshire


Simon Edwards, Commercial Director of Recycling Lives



Trevor Ferguson, Chief Fire Officer for Berkshire



Graham Barker, The High Sheriff of Berkshire



Julie Elder, HR and Corporate Services Director, NATS


Rebecca See, Costain




Richard Elliott, Group HRM, Manpower Group


Delegates at the Conference