Charity Awards 2024

LandWorks scoops top award at the Charity Awards 2024

LandWorks has taken the Overall Award for Excellence at this year’s Charity Awards.

As well as winning the top prize in the Social Care, Advice & Support category, LandWorks was chosen as the Overall Winner by this year’s judges for its decade of work helping ex-prisoners to shake off their criminal identity and successfully exit the criminal justice system.

Trainees who have received occupational training, pastoral care and peer support at the charity’s occupational centre in Devon have far lower reoffending rates than prisoners who are released straight into the community – 5% rather than the national average of 37%.

The Charity Awards judges were impressed by the way the charity built trust with its trainees and helped them to rebuild their lives by understanding the experiences that led to their criminal behaviour in the first place. Dr Priya Singh, chair of NCVO, said: “This is not just about how you get a job after you come out of prison. This is about how you turn your life around, how you become a new you – then a job will come. That’s what so powerful about this programme.”  

LandWorks was established in 2013 and became an independent registered charity in 2016. The site has since grown to include a kitchen to teach the trainees cooking skills, a market stall to sell its produce, and pottery and carpentry workshops. The charity also offers counselling and therapy, tailored resettlement services and peer support. LandWorks says it provides “a consistent and supportive environment in which trust can develop and change can happen”.

While lived experience is key to its ethos and many of its staff are former graduates of the programme, the charity is careful that trainees are not trapped by their criminal identity, and learn to see their potential beyond the justice system.

In 2022-23, the employment rate for economically active LandWorks graduates was 94%, whereas only 30% of adults leaving prison are in employment within the first six months of their release. And the reoffending rate is just 5.2% – far lower than the national rate of 37% for adults released from custody.

Around 200 trainees have taken part in the LandWorks programme over its 11-year lifespan, at an average cost of £7,000 each, while the cost to the state of a single prison sentence and probation is closer to £70,000.

Former chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, has supported LandWorks since its inception. He said: “Ministers should note that LandWorks provides one of the best examples in the country of how we can reduce reoffending, turn lives around and prevent future victims.”

The charity has now secured funding to package up its decade of evaluation evidence and present it to policymakers in a bid to convince them to replicate the model in other places, and potentially in different formats, such as BikeWorks, CarWorks or FloristryWorks. The charity’s founder and CEO, Chris Parsons, believes that resettlement ought to be viewed through a public health lens rather than a criminal justice lens, and hopes to persuade the Department of Health to take it forward as a public health programme.

Matt Nolan, chief executive of Civil Society Media, congratulated LandWorks on winning the highly-coveted award. He said:

“At a time when our prisons are in crisis and too many offenders are largely consigned to the scrapheap, Landworks refuses to give up on people. Its person-centred and highly effective approach to resettlement looks beyond the ‘offender’ label and supports people to navigate a way out to a life beyond crime.  It has proved to be sustainable, successful, and scalable, and we are delighted to award it our highest honour. We can only hope that ministers will also see its potential and take it to the next level.”

Peter Hugh Smith, chief executive officer at Overall Awards Partner CCLA, said:

“Charities are experiencing extraordinary challenges, making it vitally important that we continue to promote their endeavours and celebrate excellence in the sector. This is why CCLA is proud to be the Charity Awards’ Overall Partner again this year – so we can play our part in highlighting the heroic work of charities large and small, right across the UK.

“I pay tribute to all 10 winners who deserve full credit for their outstanding work. And I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Chris Parsons and all the team at LandWorks, who have won the much-coveted Overall Award this year. Your person-centred approach is an inspiring model for others.”

Other winners

Alongside the nine other category winners and the recipient of the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement, LandWorks was presented with its two trophies at the ceremony hosted by writer, comedian and political commentator Ayesha Hazarika.

Paul Farmer, CEO at Age UK, won the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement. Click here to read why.

Click here to read more about LandWorks.

Click here to read the full list of Charity Awards 2024 winners.