Welcome to our third publication for sentencers. In this edition:
- A foreword by chief executive Chris Edwards
- An update about a Magistrates’ training programme
- The latest about Paths to Success, a guide to our interventions
- Praise for Community Payback
- And the latest from one of our women’s centres
Foreword by Chief Executive Chris Edwards
Over the last 12 months, and particularly over the last six months, I believe the landscape for Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and court engagement has changed for the better. There is little advocacy for keeping CRCs at arm’s length from Sentencers as there was at the start of the contracts; with Commissioners fearing such contact would influence things inappropriately. In my judgement there is a more sensible dialogue now which is recognising the need for those sentencing to understand what is on offer from CRCs, to be properly briefed and to get regular progress updates on how things are going.
In addition there is the need for much readier access to CRC staff to help sort out problems or concerns quickly, and we have put in place designated points of contact across Merseyside, Cheshire and Greater Manchester to achieve this. We are working hard to improve confidence in the work we do and I meet with the Senior Presiding Judge alongside other CRC CEOs to update her on progress.
We have a very clear focus on enforcement activity and the data shows increased numbers of supervisees being returned to court more quickly when they don’t comply, particularly in relation to Community Payback orders where we are also making inroads into the numbers going beyond 12 months to complete their hours of work. I am mindful that the rigor with which we are tackling things has increased pressure in some courts, with greater numbers being returned; but nonetheless it is important to keep breaches strictly enforced if we are to rebuild confidence.
I think it’s important to keep you appraised of our resourcing situation. Together with the National Probation Service, in the short to medium term we are both competing for an ever diminishing pool of probation officers. Whilst we continue to train staff to qualify as probation officers (called Senior Case Managers in our organisation), their training takes some time and we cannot get the numbers we need to meet our staffing model. So despite best efforts we continue to operate with a deficit. This is a national problem and we are focused on ways to mitigate against the issues that it creates. We do maximise our spend on frontline staff and ensure that all other efficiencies are made, but the reality is that CRC resources are tight. We have excellent staff, a commitment to training and developing them to do an excellent job for the courts, but like most leaders of organisations delivering public services, I’d like more of them.
I do hope that you are also seeing the impact of what we’re doing to improve confidence, and that you are able to take one of the growing number of opportunities to meet CRC staff. Please do contact us via the channels discussed in this newsletter if you would like to organise a meeting or learn more about our work.
Magistrates training day
A total of 20 Magistrates took part in a training event which described how probation works and what sentencing options are on offer across Greater Manchester.
The JPs gathered at the National Probation Service’s (NPS) Moss Side office to hear a presentation from both the NPS and staff from CGM CRC. Presentations were delivered on how the service works, what programmes CGM CRC delivers and on the CRC’s Intensive Community Order. The CRC’s Community Payback team also gave a presentation which talked about unpaid work orders and how the punishment is delivered.
A Magistrate from the Tameside bench present at the event, said: “It was extremely helpful to learn more about the work carried out by the probation services.”
Helen Latham, Interchange manager, said: “Magistrates are absolutely key to delivering excellent probation services. It is so important that offenders are appropriately sentenced, to ensure that they can access support relevant to their risk and needs. However, magistrates can only make the right decisions if they have the right information and know all of their sentencing options. That is why training sessions like today are so important.
“I was delighted to get the opportunity to discuss with magistrates what the Intensive Community Order has to offer. The order is incredibly effective at engaging with young men with complex issues and there was a great deal of interest in it.”
Paths to Success
We are developing a brochure for Sentencers called Paths to Success which will contain information about all of the interventions that we have on offer.
Paths to Success will be published by the end of August. It will include details about every intervention, including its duration and what benefits the offender will receive by successfully completing it. The brochure will be illustrated by quotes from offenders who have participated in courses giving their opinion about what they learnt.
Hard copies of Paths to Success will be distributed to each court and it will also be hosted on our website. If you would like to receive a posted copy, please click this link and send us your contact details.
Community Payback paves the way
Colina McInnes-Boylan praised offenders for paving the way for her husband to enjoy his allotment after a Community Payback project provided them with a safe route.
People on unpaid works orders have removed overgrowth, laid flagging and repaired a gate and fence to help Jim gain access to the couple’s Clammer Clough Allotment, in Cemetery Road, Farnworth.
Jim has a functional neurological disorder, a condition which means he has lost his eyesight and is dependent on a wheelchair. The couple desperately wanted to enjoy fresh air and growing food and flowers together, but Jim fell out of his chair when they first tried to reach their allotment because it could be only reached by an uneven path.
Bolton Council earmarked the project for the CGM CRC’s Community Payback team as part of a partnership that the local authority has with probation.
Colina said: “I cannot praise Community Payback enough. It’s hard to put into words what I feel because it means everything to us that we can get out and enjoy the fresh air and do something together. Within just two days of explaining the project to CGM CRC, they started work. Quite simply, without them we couldn’t have done this.
“They were a great bunch of lads. They really knuckled down and completed a tremendous amount of work to an extremely high standard.”
CGM CRC’s Mark Pimblett assessed the job and mapped out how to lay the path. Teams of up to eight offenders sentenced to unpaid work took a day-and-a-half to clear dense overgrowth, before then spending another day-and-a-half repairing an old fence and laying flag stones to create a smooth path.
Paul, who received 100 hours Community Payback for motoring offences, said: “To me, this sums up what community means. What we’ve done has made a difference to Jim’s quality of life. He can now get to where he needs to go. Community Payback can sometimes be clearing up litter people have dropped, but then the next day it’s a mess again. This job, though, I genuinely enjoyed doing it.”
Mark, a Community Payback supervisor, oversees work carried out by people carrying out their orders.
He said: “Community Payback is a punishment for breaking the law, but the lads carrying out unpaid work deserve a great deal of credit for having completed this task to such a high-standard. They can rightly be proud of their efforts.”
Together Women’s Project a life-line
Women have praised a centre they say has given them a life-line.
The Together Women’s Project is for people sentenced to probation or on licence from prison. Crucially, it can also be attended by people at risk of offending or who are vulnerable.
Across Greater Manchester 81 per cent of female service users successfully complete their orders and licences, which is six per cent above national targets. These positive results are being driven by 10 successful women’s centres across Greater Manchester. Each is supported by CGM CRC, Greater Manchester Combined Authortity, Greater Manchester Women’s Alliance, the local authority, and a range of partner agencies. Each women’s centre delivers a unique service incorporating local agencies. The model has earned accolades nationally.
The Together Women’s Project (TWP) aims to support 134 women over a 12-month period, and is well on track to accede this target. Women can access a wide range of help five-days-a-week; from anger management through to debt advice, support overcoming domestic abuse, drug misuse, unemployment and cookery – to name but a few.
Women spoke candidly about why they believe TWP plays a crucial role in their lives.
Amanda Fletcher is in recovery from alcohol addiction and is one of many attendees who has successfully completed a community order, but still visits for support.
She said: “Quite simply if not for this place, I think I’d have committed suicide.
“I’ve been coming here now for two years. I have a long-standing illness and suffer from anxiety, but my problems stem from drink. I’ve had bad periods where I’ve drunk from the first moment I opened my eyes until passing out. The TWP, the people I meet here, my friends – this is my support network. They all give me a reason to get out of the house, to stay abstinent, and keep motivated.”
Amanda has had long periods of abstinence for the last four years, and is three months sober.
To read the report in full, please click this link.