Ex-Guardian reporter, Henry McDonald talks to John Burton, creator of Inside Connections
Below is an excerpt from the full interview
John Burton: Inside Connections was started in 2017. I was an ex-offender that had been in prison, and I wanted to change my life and help change a lot of other people’s lives as well. I designed an app on paper while I was in prison. In the last 14 months, I had the app built out.
Then when I got out of prison, it took me 12 months to get all the development, the software and everything ready. Once it was all ready, when people started seeing it, you know, a lot of people were asking for help – help with work, help with accommodation, help with training. So the origins of Inside Connections actually came from when the app was first developed. I realised that a lot of people needed more help than I had realised even from when I was in prison.
For me, it was about seeing people going out of prison and coming back in the same night, and not getting the opportunities of somewhere to live, not getting the opportunities of the help they need. You get £47 pounds and a railcard. You go to a house when you get out, you have no furniture. So it’s about giving the people the help they need. And that’s where the origins of Inside Connections began.
Henry McDonald: And why did you concentrate a lot and make the decision to work with the construction industry?
John Burton: I don’t believe in minimum wage jobs for people coming out of prison. One, at the end of every week, do they have to top that money up by 50? Or 100? pounds? What do they have to do to top that money up? Does it lead you back into a world of criminality? Or do you go and do something stupid, that’s gonna put you straight back in jail anyway. So I know from experience that construction, and futuristic stuff, so construction was my main bids when affairs come out. And I always knew there was always going to be jobs in construction, and a lot of companies will take on medium to low-risk offenders. So that’s why I sort of focused on the construction side of it.
And then from there, with the construction, we’ve gone into fibre optic and data, renewable energy, Home Energy Management Systems, and actually electric vehicle charging, and all eco. So it is all to do with the construction but it’s something now that’s never gonna go away. Where you’ve got jobs that, you know, will last a year, and then probably go away. Now you look at it now, while we’re in this pandemic, catering, hotels, hospitality events, they’re finished.
Construction will never be like that, it will always keep building and building because in this country, and alone in the world, all’s we’re going to be doing is keep building and keep building, keep building. And while all that’s going on, it’s all going to be renewable energy, green energy. So for me, they’re the four or five different points of where I want to go. Because all the people I work within the companies believe in living wage and above. And for me, that just tells a story of what we need, you know.