“I used to channel my energies into the wrong things. I was successful but now I know that if I had channelled my energies into something positive I could have succeeded there too”. (Cooper an ex-offender and Tap Social employee)
In the UK £18.1 billion pounds is spent each year on former prisoners re-offending. Tap Social is an Oxford located craft brewery with a mission to employ people in or after prison and to get everyone else to do the same. It was founded in July 2016 by Paul Humpherson, a lawyer, then 29 years of age, and with sisters Amy Taylor (28) a Civil Servant and Tess Taylor (25) who had worked in the craft beer hospitality sector. All three had experience of the criminal justice system and were aware of the difficulty ex-offenders face on leaving prison; Paul as an independent criminal barrister, Amy through her Oxford University doctoral research in criminology, and Tess working in Canada as a counsellor securing pardons for ex-offenders. The three, passionate about social justice, wanted to create a venture which would provide new opportunities for both offenders and ex-offenders. When they first spoke to the prisons about their idea, they found considerable support for the provision of training and employment for those in, or about to be released from, custody.
So they bought a brewery and assembled a team that included economist Matthew Elliott, award-winning American brewer Jason Bolger, as well as a group of individuals who were either currently serving or recently released from prison. Through the programme, the team trained and equipped these individuals with new skills, including small business setup and management. Furthermore, the team provided practical support for career planning, CV writing, and interview preparation. Their efforts paid off, resulting in over 60,000 hours of employment created by 2022, with a reach of over 500 individuals, and more than 40 ex-offenders hired for permanent roles. Remarkably, their reoffending rate stands at only 6%, compared to the national rate of 50%. Furthermore, 94% of those they assisted in finding employment remained employed one year after.
We train and employ people in prisons, providing real jobs in brewing and hospitality. Drink beer that tatstes good and does good. – Tap Social Movement
Over the years, they have expanded, and with the aid of £32,779 of crowdfunding raised in December 2017 they have renovated their premises and acquired new property. In August 2022 they partnered with a local independent coffee shop, Missing Bean to open an artisan bakery and café, Proof Social Bakehouse, in their original brewery. As Amy says it was “loads of fun transforming the brewery into a bakery” and importantly as with all of their ventures, the bakery offers “paid training and employment to prison leavers and people in prison” .
In addition to addressing a significant social problem, Tap Social also strives to tackle the global sustainability challenge. To this end, in 2020, it introduced a canning line and replaced its glass bottles with aluminium cans. Moreover, the decision to use cans over bottles not only makes them easier to recycle, but also lighter, resulting in lower carbon emissions during transportation. As of 2022, Tap Social reported saving 24,500 kilowatt hours of electricity, 473 cubic feet of landfill space, and 11,454 litres of oil. The company also employs eco-friendly transportation methods such as bicycles and zero-emission courier services for bakery deliveries, with plans to have a fleet of electric delivery vehicles for beer deliveries. Additionally, over 75% of their packaging is made from recycled cardboard, and their outdoor furniture and can holders are made from recycled plastic bottles and wood pulp, respectively.
Despite the global pandemic, Brexit and the current economic crises Tap Social has grown. It now has a new brewery, a new bakery and 4 hospitality venues. It plans to develop its own sustainable food production and to scale its operations and raise its profile in order to change public opinion and reduce re-offending. It is very much a for-profit enterprise that addresses both humane and environmental issue, particularly SDGs 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action), 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
Rice, L. (2022, August 22). Tap Social and Missing Bean set to open new bakery and café. Oxford Mail. Retrieved from https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/20659052.tap-social-missing-bean-set-open-new-bakery-cafe/
Tap Social. (2022). Tap Social Movement Impact & Progress Report, 2020-2022. Oxford: Tap Social.
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