Amy Sutton was “on the brink of suicide” during a period which saw her partying hard and committing a series of driving offences.
The 34-year-old is now employed by Age UK Wirral after successfully completing Community Payback, which included her working at the charity’s warehouse.
Amy escaped an abusive relationship after her friend helped her return to Birkenhead. Having broken free from a controlling and violent man who had dogged her for more than a decade, Amy got involved in drinking to excess and partying.
Amy is supervised by Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company’s probation case manager Gill O’Donnell, and completed unpaid work at Age UK Wirral as part of an agency placement organised by probation. The charity’s senior retail manager Sandra Jones was so impressed by Amy’s commitment that she offered her a part-time job managing a store in the Wirral.
Amy said: “I got trapped in a terribly abusive relationship with a violent alcoholic. When I finally broke free I went off the rails. Before I’d left Birkenhead over a decade ago, I was pretty wild. I guess I just returned to type.
“I was out of control. I was also suffering really badly with depression and often felt suicidal. It was a hard time and I find thinking back to it to be really difficult. I was very mixed up.
“The two things that got me out of that place were Community Payback and Tomorrow’s Women Wirral (TWW).”
TWW supports women to make positive lifestyle choices and changes, and is a female-only environment that can also be used by women on probation. Amy’s Community Payback involved her sorting goods, helping customers, and supporting the business.
Amy said: “I instantly loved Age UK Wirral and working with Sandra. I got stuck in. Sandra and Gill helped me restore my self-belief. I couldn’t have done it without them.
“They saw something in me that I didn’t know was there at the time. They gave me confidence in myself. Sandra is so down to earth, I could tell her anything.
“I guess because they were both telling me that I was smart and had ability, eventually I came to believe it. It’s so important to have people believe in you.”
Age UK Wirral has been working with people on Community Payback for two years.
Sandra said: “I’m the only person who knows they are on Community Payback. It makes no difference to me, I think we always need to give people a second chance and I don’t judge anyone for making bad decisions – so long as they are trying to put that right.
“The majority we get on unpaid work are happy to help out in the store or on the vans collecting goods – and they do a good job. We are grateful of the support because we are a charity and need all the help we can get.
“Amy felt she had the world against her at first, but I could see potential. Over the weeks she opened up, and I am absolutely delighted to see how she has come on. I am proud of her.”
Janet Houghton, M CRC Community Payback placement coordinator, runs five agency placements as well as having responsibility for securing unpaid work projects across north Liverpool and the Wirral.
She said: “We see time and again that unpaid work lets people give back to the community, but also has the potential to help people gain confidence, new skills and ambition. I am absolutely thrilled to hear how Amy has progressed on her order.”
Amy started a new relationship and also believes meeting a supportive man has helped her change. She is now engaged to be married. Amy has run the Wirral store on a paid basis three-days-a-week for six months.
She added: “I wouldn’t be feeling this bright about the future without probation. My advice to anyone starting an order is to approach it with an open mind.
“When I started I was so, so nervous. I was thinking ‘I’m 33, what the hell am I doing here?’ I didn’t see a way forward.
“Now I’m enjoying life, I have a job and my home life has massively turned around.”