A couple on licence from prison have been overwhelmed by a festive donation from staff at Tameside probation.
Syed and Rizwana are both being supervised on licence by the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC) after serving a 10-month custodial sentence for benefit fraud.
The couple had their asylum claim rejected after the authorities were tipped off that they had been working illegally, following a period of legally working in the country while Rizwana was a student.
Their three children – twins aged 10 and a five-year-old boy – have all been born and raised in the country. Because the couple’s right to asylum was quashed, the couple are not allowed to work or claim benefits and are therefore penniless.
CGM CRC’s Tameside office donated presents to the couple. Thanks to a £300 food voucher donation to probation from Michael Taylor, from Taylor Made Community Fitness, a local gym, the couple have also received a £40 voucher. The whip round was organised by probation case managers Sam Bradshaw and Helen May.
Syed said: “We are usually the people who give help. It is hard for us to accept this generosity. But I don’t have any family here in this country, I am not allowed to work and we have no money.
“I feel that Sam and Ellen are my sisters. It has been a wonderful experience to meet these people at Tameside probation.
“I was nervous about starting probation. Prison was horrible. There was a lot of suicides, tension, fighting and drugs.
“But probation has not been what we expected. It has made us feel like people once again.”
Rizwana said: “I am overcome by the generosity.
“I was isolated when Syed was jailed. I told our children that he had to go to Pakistan and that when he came back I would have to go too.
“It was really, really hard. I was also scared about probation, about being recalled. But Helen and Sam have always tried to support us as a couple and they have told me they are only ever a call away.”
Following sentence, Syed served five months at HMP Manchester while his wife cared for their children. Once he was released, Rizwana then served her sentence.
Sam said: “After meeting Rizwana a few times it was clear to me that she wasn’t telling me the whole story. Then it became apparent what their financial plight was.
“She said their children understood they wouldn’t be getting anything at Christmas and that was okay. I didn’t want to accept that.”
Sam posted about the couple – while not identifying them – via social media and has been left dumbfounded by the response.
She said: “We’ve received enough Christmas presents to share with other needy families. I think it speaks volumes about probation staff and the local community.”
Helen added: “We are here to help as well as to supervise people on probation. Whatever the circumstances of their offence, we wanted to help make their children’s Christmas memorable.
“It also stands to reason that if you feel secure and cared for by your community, then that helps the rehabilitative process.”
Beverley Cogan, Interchange Manager, said: “I am really proud of the work that both Helen and Sam have done with the family since they started their orders. They have worked together on delivering an outstanding service to the whole family and not just the individual.
“Sam and Helen have taken time to draft in resource from partnership agencies and community initiatives, which has meant that the family is now going to have a wonderful Christmas.
“It is a touching story and one that the CRC should be proud of and this in my view is solely down to the dedication and commitment from my two Case Managers, who are a credit to all service users they are working with.”
The couple are appealing their asylum status.