Blue Sky-RAPt’s strategic merger – a rare occurrence in the sector?
We were delighted to have played a part in the merger – announced this week – between Blue Sky and Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPt), two fantastic criminal justice charities, each of which brings a strong track record of offender rehabilitation.
Blue Sky was founded in 2005 with the sole aim of creating jobs for people coming out of jail. Since then it has employed over 1,000 ex-offenders, the equivalent in size to the population of a large prison. The re-offending rate of Blue Sky employees is just 15%, a quarter of the national average.
Impetus-PEF first invested in Blue Sky in 2009. From the outset of our investment we recognised that Blue Sky had developed a best-in-class and truly distinctive model for the employment and resettlement of ex-offenders, led by its founder, Mick May, an entrepreneurial and highly energetic CEO. Over five years, we backed Blue Sky with a combination of funding (over £800,000 together with co-investors) and hands-on support to the management team. Significant areas of support included an in depth analysis of the agency labour market, which enabled them to diversify their employment contracts and a study of their social return on investment.
In the past 15 months, we and Blue Sky concluded that its long-term sustainability would be best served by merger with a larger organisation in the criminal justice sector. As part of our wider Reducing Re-offending Initiative (funded jointly by the Indigo Trust, Esmée Fairbairn, the Henry Smith Charity and JP Getty Jnr Charitable Trust), and with pro bono support from Impetus-PEF, Blue Sky identified RAPt as the most suitable partner. So began a conversation that resulted in this week’s merger announcement.
RAPt is the country’s leading provider of abstinence-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes in prison. In 1992, RAPt founded the first-ever drug treatment facility in a UK prison. Today it runs rehabilitation programmes in over 30 prisons together with recovery support services in the community, reaching over 20,000 people every year. In 2013, 73% of clients that engaged in RAPt programmes completed them.
The merger means that the employment model so carefully pioneered by Blue Sky will have a sustainable long-term future. As Blue Sky’s Mick May commented: “Our vision has been to create a pathway of hope and purpose for offenders from custody to life in the community. The merger between RAPt and Blue Sky is driven by strategic thinking not financial need – a rare occurrence in the charitable sector. No other organisation is able to offer this continuum, from in-prison care for addicts, through the gate to resettlement support, to a proper paid job with a proper paid company on the outside.”