Probation helps Pauline progress

Probation helps Pauline progress image

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 ended up kicking a constable.

Pauline is supervised by the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC) and, like most female offenders, 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 CGM CRC’s 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: “Last time I suffered acutely women’s centre staff took me to hospital. I spent 10 days in care and my medication was altered. I’ve managed well since then, and it helps so much knowing that all I need to do if I’m struggling is to attend WOW.

“WOW’s staff helped me break my isolation. 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 has been asked to volunteer with CGM CRC at the PSC to help women understand the process.

She said: “I used to stare at the floor. I couldn’t look at people. I couldn’t go on the bus. Probation made me take that step, to get out of the door, to get the bus. It forced me to break my isolation.

“I feel very honoured to be asked to volunteer. When I was sentenced I didn’t understand what was happening to me, so I am pleased to now be there for others to tell them that if they engage and embrace probation, then it might well help them like it’s helped me.”

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: “When I first met Pauline she was the most timid and nervous person. She physically shook and cried frequently. I began by delivering the group sessions to her on a one-to-one basis.

“She had been terrified by the court process and took time to realise probation was about trying to support her. 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.

“I am delighted Magistrates asked Pauline back, she will excel as a volunteer and she is perfectly placed to help others.”

Pauline added: “What I did was horrendous, but it has been a catalyst for change.”