Welcome to our fourth publication for sentencers. In this edition:
- A foreword by chief executive Chris Edwards
- Coverage about our services for women offenders
- Paths to Success, our Rate Card, has been launched
- How you can get in touch with us.
Foreword by Chief Executive Chris Edwards
I write at a time when a further consultation about the future of probation services has just concluded, early termination of Community Rehabilitation Company contracts has been announced and a new competitive process commences in 2019. This underlines that CRC staff must continue to operate in a constantly changing environment in which resources remain tight.
Against this backdrop CRCs continue to be closely scrutinised by HMPPS Contract Teams and subject to an annual audit by HMIP. I continue to be proud of the excellent work of our staff – all the more remarkable given the landscape I describe.
Throughout 2018 in particular, we have spent a lot of time looking at activity which we hope improves the confidence of both Judiciary and Magistracy. We have evidence that indicates higher rates of enforcement and closer monitoring of those undertaking Community Payback and/or Behaviour Change Programmes. This means we can demonstrate timely starts to these interventions and consistent activity to overcome barriers to attendance. Whilst not being complacent, and I am conscious of individual cases still causing concern, I believe we are in an increasingly strong position with regards to delivering sentences of the court.
I am also pleased with the greater direct contact we are having with sentencers. The increased dialogue means we are able to redress the negative impact of the CRC part of probation being kept at a distance from courts for the first part of their contracts, a situation in hindsight which most would accept was a structural mistake. I am very much aware there is more to do on this agenda, but we are continuing to push for opportunities to showcase what we do and in my opinion, we are progressing quite quickly to the point where CRC staff will be available in court to provide timely and accurate information.
The final period of current CRC contracts – from now until the end of 2020 – will continue to be challenging, and we must work hard to keep the staff group stable and intact when uncertainty over new owners will inevitably cause some to be unsettled. My commitment is that we will do all we can to keep on an improving arc and deliver court sentences with integrity – seeing the satisfaction of sentencers as being one of our major criteria of success.
I hope you find this edition, which focuses on female offenders, informative. Please feel free to contact me to arrange a visit or for more details about anything you read in this publication: firstname.lastname@example.org
CGM CRC’s approach to women service users
Women and staff at our Salford Together Women's Project
The Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company has endorsed a Government strategy aimed at providing the best possible support to female service users.
The CRC supervises women on Community Orders, custodial licences, Suspended Sentence Orders and unpaid work orders.
In partnership with the Greater Manchester Women’s Alliance, the CRC helps run a women-only centre in each of the local authority areas across Greater Manchester. Centres are also being launched in Cheshire.
Ceri Schofield, CGM CRC’s Community Director, is the lead for women’s services and is proud of the work being done.
She said: “I am delighted the Ministry of Justice has published a strategy which endorses everything we have been striving to achieve.
“The justice secretary David Gauke has outlined his hope that the number of women in prison falls from its current level of 3,850. I passionately believe he correctly identifies that many women caught up in the prison estate are themselves vulnerable, and would be better served by receiving the right support in their communities.
“At CGM CRC we work with a number of dedicated partnership agencies to achieve the best possible outcomes for our women service users.”
The Government’s strategy includes three key principles:
- Fewer women coming into the criminal justice system
- Fewer women in custody (especially on short-term sentences) and a greater proportion of women managed in the community successfully
- Better conditions for those in custody.
Ceri added: “Our women’s centres provide a safe, women-only environment that supports our service users to make positive change. In addition, our staff based at the centres are dedicated specialists who are highly skilled at balancing risk management with personalised support to help women offenders achieve results.”
CGM CRC is focusing on providing the right Rehabilitation Activity Requirements for women. Interventions and support packages under development include:
- Domestic Abuse
- Psychoactive substances information briefing
- Shoplifting prevention
- Preventing drug misuse.
The Ministry of Justice’s strategy can be accessed by clicking this link.
Magistrates praise Pauline for her progress
Pauline (foreground) said: "The magistrates praised me for the progress I'd made. It felt amazing that these people in such a high position cared about what I’d done."
Pauline Cosgrove blacked out after drinking too much before regaining consciousness in a police cell.
While the mum-of-two feels deep shame about the events which lead up to her being arrested, she believes the experience has helped her begin to come to terms with a medical condition which has blighted her for years.
Pauline has bi-polar disorder and at the time of the offence had virtually become a recluse who rarely ventured out from her home in Radcliffe.
Pauline, who was raised in care, had been in trouble with the law many years ago for minor offences, but had spent months free from alcohol. However, on the fateful day last year she had been battling suicidal thoughts and reached for the bottle to ease her pain.
After meeting family to continue drinking, Pauline blacked out. Police told her she had been taken to hospital but was agitated and eventually she ended up kicking a constable.
Like almost all of CGM CRC’s female offenders, Pauline attends a women’s centre to carry out her Community Order’s requirements. In Bury partner agencies combine to run Women of Worth (WOW). She is supervised by probation case manager Karen Atherton.
Pauline said: “I am mortified about what I’ve done and couldn’t face telling my son for months. If it wasn’t for being put in touch with this centre I think I would have ended it all by now.
“Bi-polar is horrendous. I can have periods where I think I’m worthless. On the day I felt so low. My finances were a mess, I’d split from a partner and all I wanted to do was to go to the park and hang myself. In desperation I reached for the bottle.
“I hadn’t been well. I hadn’t been going out or seeing anyone. I was just surviving. I needed help but didn’t know where to turn.”
Pauline’s anxiety was exacerbated by her court appearance. In floods of tears throughout the sentence hearing, she failed to understand what was happening.
She said: “When I first visited Bury probation I again broke down. Karen helped me so much. Without WOW I don’t know how I would’ve coped. I’ve used every tool they’ve given me, I’ve attended every course on offer, and I’ve taken so much from the staff and service users. The ladies I’ve met there have shown me that I’m not alone.
“It took me two months to engage, but after that my life began to improve.”
Pauline had been on a variety of medication to help her condition, but still struggles with periods of low mood.
She said: “It helps so much knowing that all I need to do if I’m struggling is to attend WOW. I feel I’m living life again, and my son is proud of me too.”
Like many women offenders across Greater Manchester, Pauline was sentenced by the Problem Solving Court (PSC), which sits at the Manchester and City Magistrates Court. The court also looks at ways to bring partner agencies together to provide the support people need to stop re-offending. The court also invites people back on a monthly basis to check on their progress.
Pauline said: “I hated the idea of returning to court. But the magistrates praised me for the progress I had made. It felt amazing to me that these people in such a high position in society cared about what I’d done and were impressed by my progress. I went into the court feeling small, but I came out feeling amazing.
“I realised the magistrates wanted to see me progress.”
Pauline is looking at volunteering with CGM CRC.
She said: “Probation made me take that step, to get out of the door, to get the bus. It forced me to break my isolation.”
Karen is based at CGM CRC’s Bolton office, but works from WOW’s centre in Bury on a regular basis, where she sees all of the women she supervises. The centre hosts a wide variety of partner agencies, who provide a range of support from courses to address substance abuse through to debt management, wellbeing and accommodation support.
She said: “Overtime we managed to convince Pauline to join a group activity, and since that point she never looked back. Pauline realised others had similar problems. She has embraced everything on offer to such an extent that she was able to help another service user I had to overcome deep reservations about attending group programmes.”
Pauline added: “What I did was horrendous, but it has been a catalyst for change.”
Women on Community Payback
A woman in a female-only Community Payback group decorating Stretford town hall.
Women on unpaid work orders across Cheshire and Greater Manchester are able to complete their Community Payback in a variety of ways all aimed at helping them successfully complete their sentence.
All women sentenced to Community Payback can attend women only centre’s for their induction. Once inducted, they are then referred to CGM CRC’s placement coordinators whose role it is to ensure that people are given safe and appropriate Community Payback placements in accordance with their risk.
Adam Powsney, placement coordinator, said: “We consider other important factors, such as does each individual want a female only placement, do they need child friendly reporting times and so on.
“We run women’s task groups every Tuesday which starts at 9.30am so they miss the men’s reporting hours and which returns at 3pm so enables people to pick up their children from school.
“We also run a number of individual placements at charitable shops and other organisations across the region. These are only appropriate for people whose risk factors allow such a placement, but they are an invaluable way to help people pay back for the crimes they have committed.
“For women offenders unable to attend during the day, or potentially unsuitable due to risk to be based elsewhere, we host an inspirational project at Salford probation where staff and service users run an Evening Care Group that supports adults with disabilities and conditions such as Down’s Syndrome.”
CGM CRC also on occasion runs female only Community Projects at women’s centres and charity shops. Examples of these are the Together Women’s Project in Eccles and Women MATTA in Hulme.
Adam added: “We are flexible and do everything we can to support successful completions. For example, I met a service user with childcare needs whose first language was Somali and had limited English. I managed to arrange a unique placement at the Somali Golden Centre of Opportunity where she completed her hours.
“Often women state a preference for working with standard Community Payback groups, and that is also supported.”
Paths to Success - our Rate Card
Cheshire & Greater Manchester CRC has launched a new rate card brochure that showcases the interventions and programmes available to the National Probation Service and sentencers. The brochure, called Paths to Success, is designed to better engage with the NPS and others who commission our services. It will also make it easier for the courts to allocate specific interventions for service users.
To view Paths to Success, please click this link.