Connor believes being sentenced for assault has been a “blessing in disguise” because probation has helped him beat depression.
The courts gave Connor a one-year Suspended Sentence Order after he became involved in a fight while out drinking with friends in Ormskirk. The judge accepted Connor had acted in self-defence, but had been overzealous in his response.
Karen Kershaw, a probation case manager for the Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company (M CRC), supervised Connor on his order. As he progressed, she helped him find accommodation and referred him to a number of courses at which he excelled.
Connor was hit by a car several years ago and as a result suffers from chronic pain. In addition, at the time he committed the offence, he was living in substandard accommodation that lacked heating and other basic requirements.
He said: “I was depressed. I couldn’t see a way out. I didn’t think it at the time, but probation was a blessing in disguise because the support from Karen has helped me see a new future.
“I was absolutely devastated to be arrested. But I got on really well with Karen and she has been fantastic. She encouraged me to think I could be a probation officer, and to think what it would be like on her side of the fence.”
M CRC commissions Riverside Housing Association to provide housing support to service users who are either homeless or in unstable accommodation.
Connor said: “Because of my offence I wasn’t able to bid for social housing, and I hadn’t got the cash to go private. I was stuck.
“The landlord wouldn’t sort the heating. I was in pain and therefore wasn’t getting out of the house, and I felt in a really bad way because I felt trapped in an unpleasant, cold home.
“Karen referred me to Riverside and worked hard to help me get a better house. I really appreciate what she did for me.”
Karen also referred Connor, who successfully completed his order in July, to courses including Intuitive Thinking and Skills Tu Employment.
He said: “I got multiple injuries after being hit by the car. Some days I’m ok, other days the pain is crippling. I therefore cannot do a manual job, but I’m desperate to work.
“The courses helped get me out of the house and to do something positive. It helped me see a way out.
“Karen supported me in lots of ways. She was always there for me. She was someone I turned to quite frequently. Towards the end of my order I asked her what I could do that would help me get something out of being on probation.”
Karen urged Connor to apply for a volunteer role with User Voice, an organisation commissioned by M CRC that runs service user councils, giving people who have been on probation the chance to influence how the organisation is run.
Connor said: “I enjoy the volunteer role very much. I go to probation reception areas and ask service users for their feedback about what is going positively and if there are any negatives, and I collate that information.
“I then meet with other representatives from User Voice and we look at common themes, before preparing proposals that we put to M CRC’s chief executive Chris Edwards.
“At first I was nervous, but Chris is great and listens to what we have to say and always looks at ways to make our proposals happen. I’d encourage other people to get involved with User Voice.”
The Service User Council has had three out of four proposals accepted at the last meeting, including improving how tokens are worked for people using the travel system and providing better directions to the new offices.
Rosie Goodwin, Community Director with strategic responsibility for service user engagement said: “I’m delighted to hear about the excellent progress that Connor has made during his time on probation, and have been impressed with the positive contributions he has made at council meetings.
“I wish him all the best now that he has successfully finished his sentence and hope that he continues to work as a volunteer with us.”
Connor added: “Not long ago, I lacked hope. But now I feel a part of the community, feel there is a lot more to live for and feel I am adding value. I’d love to get a job in the criminal justice service and now I think that’s possible.”