Lady Val Corbett

Returning Citizens

The three networks I have founded are all linked. They fund raise for our work on prison reform which I see as an investment in people who, released from prison, have served their time and need a chance to change their lives.

1. The Lady Val’s Professional Women’s Network lunches in central London, are attended by women who work not ladies who lunch. Speakers have included Michael Palin, Cherie Blair, Gina Miller, Dame Stella Rimington, Jon Snow etc. This Network links like-minded business women into a cohesive group for sharing contacts, experience, knowledge and to attract future business. This is a cold world and if women don’t help other women, who would? The Network motto is: “There’s a special place in hell for any woman who doesn’t help another woman.”

The lunches are fund-raisers for the Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Re-integration in honour of my late husband’s legacy. As Chair of the All Party Prison Affairs Group for 10 years until his death in 2012, he thought prison shouldn’t be about society’s revenge but rather a chance to change the direction of a life.

2. The Robin Corbett Award funds £10,000 annually to three charities who do the most for prisoner reintegration. The presentation takes place at the House of Lords. Unless returning citizens are steered in the right direction after release, around 50% will re-offend within two years – that figure plummets to 19% when they have a job. Yet 46% of firms say they won’t employ people with criminal convictions – those who have served their time and need to change direction.

3 This led to The Corbett Network, a coalition of over 120 decision-makers of charities, social enterprises and organisations involved in reintegration working together to persuade more firms to hire returning citizens. The videos we produced – view them on the website – has the same aim. 70,000 people are released from prison each year but only 17% get support. Our aim is to raise that number.