A new social enterprise called Starting Step is hoping to transform HMP Perth's former social club into a café and bistro to train ex-offenders in hospitality skills.
The venue will be called the Yew Tree after the ancient yew within HMP Castle Huntly – the commercial business will be run in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service, HMP Perth and HMP Castle Huntly and will be open to the public.
The Yew Tree will offer plant-based food and will also have its own kitchen garden. It is hoped training could begin as soon as lockdown is lifted. The project will support people with convictions, as well as drug and alcohol-related mental health issues.
The site will also have a workshop, training kitchen, and a business space supporting social and community businesses, with sustainable employment for participants the ultimate goal.
It will provide annual placements for people with convictions to gain work experience in a supported and nurturing yet real job environment. This will be enhanced by accredited learning opportunities delivered in partnership with relevant colleges and outside agencies.
Documents filed with Perth and Kinross Council for the project said: "Starting Step will use hospitality and horticulture as a route to provide real life work experience for those with a criminal history to (re)enter Scotland's workforce with credible skills, experience and responsibility.
"This will see the benefits of significant investment committed to one of Scotland's most disadvantage groups, enabling sustainable cost-effective returns through reduced repeat offending. The enterprise will contribute to a change in the general public's perception of ex- offenders, making it easier for all ex-offenders to transition back into day to day life within their communities."
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