(left – right) Owen Barry and Jason Roberts, Case Manager
Since beginning his community order Owen Barry has acquired a whole new sense of purpose in life and for the first time is optimistic about the future.
Owen, a Tameside resident, was given a two year suspended sentence for affray in 2015, which has been supervised by the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC).
The 21 year old struggled when he first began the order: “When I started I kept being sent to different places. It was hard, dealing with different people, and I didn’t really know what was expected of me, and that was frustrating.”
Things began to improve when Owen was assigned to Case Manager Melissa Steventon from CGM CRC’s Intensive Community Order (ICO) Team. However, to begin with progress was slow. Melissa said: “When he first arrived Owen was a nuisance! He was kicking off and he was actually in breach of his order.
“But when we met him we could see that he actually had bags of potential so we argued that he should be given another opportunity to prove himself. We were confident that with our extensive experience of working with people in his age group we could help him successfully complete his sentence.
“I think sometimes there’s an expectation that young people who come into the Criminal Justice System are going to behave like fully mature adults as soon as they turn eighteen.
“In reality they often lack social skills and this leads to a lack of confidence, which in turn means they simply don’t have the ability to fulfil their sentence in an adult way. But in such cases patience, hard work and a bit of creative thinking can really pay off in terms changing both attitudes and outcomes.
“So, with that in mind, we started by ensuring that whenever we sent Owen into a new situation we made sure to introduce him to the people he’d be working with, so that he wasn’t going quite so much into the unknown.
“We also did a lot of work with him around perception, on helping him to better understand people and situations and how best to deal with them.”
Owen said: “Since I’ve been coming here I’ve always dealt with Melissa and that’s made such a big difference. She’s always got me through everything in the best way possible.
“I’ve got a short temper and that’s got me into trouble in the past. But Melissa treats you like a person and they have a way of talking to you here that makes you see things differently, makes you see that there’s a better way of dealing with things.”
Melissa got Owen working with Jason Roberts, a Case Manager for Achieve North West Connect (which is funded by the National Offender Management Service and part funded by the European Social Fund), who support disadvantaged offenders into employment as part of the ICO.
Jason said: “Owen was a challenge at first, missing appointments and generally not playing ball. But we got him working in group sessions, with people his own age who have similar problems, and he really began to open up.
“He learned how to deal with stress and anxiety and pretty soon he started to make real progress with our qualifications in employability, personal development and positive communication. He’s now started to equip himself with the kind of skills and qualifications employers are looking for.
“We also began to do work around victim awareness and the effects his actions have had on those around him, not just the negative but the positive, helping him to understand that he can choose to have a positive impact on the lives of others.”
Owen, who is now in a stable relationship and actively looking for work, said: “Working in group got me going over what I’d done, got me thinking not just about the offence but about my whole life up that point, and where I might take it from here.
“Jason is really knowledgeable about things like the Construction Skills Certification Card (CSCS) card. Once I’ve got that I’m hoping I can find a job in construction or maybe warehousing.
“Both of them have been fantastic. They’ve helped me set goals in life and talked me through what I need to do to achieve them, as well helping me believe in myself. At every stage they’ve both really gone the extra mile to help me.”
Maria Jiacumi, an Interchange Manager with CGM CRC, is Melissa’s manager. She said: “Seeing a young person change their life in this way is hugely rewarding and this case is a testimony to just how effective the partnership between CGM CRC and Achieve North West has become.
“Both Melissa and Jason can rightly be proud of the work they’ve done with Owen and the fact that they’ve helped him put his life firmly back on track.”
Melissa said: “Owen’s changed so much since we first met. His commitment and discipline have improved, he’s calmer, more approachable and much more focussed. From where he was to where he is now he’s unrecognisable.
“When he came to us he was on the brink of failing his order, now his direction has totally changed. He not only knows where he wants to be in life he’s now on his way. We’re dead proud of him!”