A Manchester-based steel frame construction specialist is offering prisoners a chance for a new career building homes insulated with Actis Hybrid insulation
Osco Homes has been working with inmates at HMP Hindley in Wigan for some years, helping them to develop skills required for future employment through training and mentoring.
Each inmate starts his training within prison and, on completion, will be supported into full-time employment. When working for Osco, their training continues with the goal of eventually having all the skills in-house to assemble and complete a home. So far this has helped reduce re-offending, delivering significant benefits to the public fund.
Until recently Osco used other forms of insulation for their homes – until operations manager Karl Ventre stumbled across a YouTube video showing how quick, clean and easy it was to install Actis’ honeycomb insulation Hybris.
Indeed, so impressive and unusual is Osco’s rehabilitation programme that BBC TV even ran a story on its approach to helping prisoners make a new life after being inside.
Karl Ventre said: “I saw the video via a LinkedIn feed and thought the Hybris panels looked a doddle. The prisoners had been complaining that the mineral wool we had been using was itchy and uncomfortable to work with. Obviously, we wanted to do something to eliminate this situation. And Hybris was absolutely the answer we’d been looking for. Not only is it not at all itchy, it’s very clean, there’s no dust, it’s incredibly quick and easy to install and very light, which is a nice contrast to our steel frames.”
Like timber frame manufacturing, much of the steel frame construction process takes place off site before the components – insulated walls, roofs and floors – are lifted into place on site. This offsite element is carried out by prisoners with the supervision of their factory manager.
The construction of the first Osco Homes house to use Hybris consists of a floor, walls and roof structure insulated with 60mm Hybris which is centrally fitted within the light gauge steel substructure.
Ventre added: “There is not enough housing and a shortage of skilled labour to build them using traditional methods. By carrying on doing what has always been done, it seems unlikely that this will be changed anytime soon.
“By building differently, we can deliver the change required alongside increasing the quality, improved sustainability, reducing time on site and using different skill sets, bringing new people into the industry.
Construction is one of number of vocational activities available for the HMP Hindley’s category C prisoners – adults and young men who have been sentenced to four years or less. Other options are catering, multi-media, distribution and community development.
One former prisoner who now works with Osco Homes said: “Employers don’t really want to touch someone who’s been in prison. Osco are totally the opposite. They want to employ someone who’s been to prison and give them the chance of bettering their lives and their career.”