Low-level offenders driving lorries on day release in bid to help HGV shortage

"I've wronged, now let me be right," Dean, who is driving lorries on day release, told ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

Low-level offenders are helping to plug the HGV driver shortage by taking on haulier jobs while on day release.

The driver shortage has in recent weeks led to chaos at the fuel pumps, empty supermarket shelves and warnings that Christmas goods could be disrupted if the government does not take urgent action.

Along with offering 5,000 temporary visas to foreign HGV drivers, the government is now asking convicts to take on haulier work in a bid to prevent more supply chain chaos ahead of the festive season.

Dean, who was convicted for importing drugs, is one of those prisoners driving a lorry while on day release.

He told ITV News: "I need to be able to get on with my life. I've wronged, now let me be right.

"I do understand people's concerns with it but at some point the punishment needs to stop.

"You can't just lock people up forever and then punish them forever.

"I'm earning money, I pay tax. A percentage of my money goes back into the victim support fund as well."

Around 2,200 serving prisoners in England and Wales are carrying out paid work on day release for more than 400 employers, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Big brands such as M&S, Timpson, Halfords, Greggs and Sky are several companies involved with the scheme.

The government, which assures that candidates are carefully vetted, is looking to expand the project further.

HGV driver shortages are hitting all parts of the economy Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

Dominic Raab told ITV News employing prisoners on day release is good for the economy as well as society.

The justice secretary said: "It's about being a bit more self reliant ourselves as a country. And actually, self reliance is something we want to instill in our offenders."

However, experts are sceptical that convicts alone can help the issue after lorry drivers laid bare the reality of the job, which means they often have no access to basic facilities like toilets and showers.

Official figures released on Tuesday showed the number of people working as lorry drivers in the UK has fallen by 53,000 in four years.

Kate Shoesmit, of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said: "We need something like 100,000 HGV drivers.

"There are not enough prisoners to fill some of these job vacancies that are out there now."