Welcome to our third publication for sentencers. In this edition:
- A foreword by chief executive Chris Edwards
- Feedback from HMPPS about our women’s services
- The latest about Paths to Success, a guide to our interventions
- Praise for Community Payback
- And a case study about Sarah’s life-changing experience
Foreword by Chief Executive Chris Edwards
Over the last 12 months, and particularly over the last six months, I believe the landscape for Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and court engagement has changed for the better. There is little advocacy for keeping CRCs at arm’s length from Sentencers as there was at the start of the contracts; with Commissioners fearing such contact would influence things inappropriately. In my judgement there is a more sensible dialogue now which is recognising the need for those sentencing to understand what is on offer from CRCs, to be properly briefed and to get regular progress updates on how things are going.
In addition there is the need for much readier access to CRC staff to help sort out problems or concerns quickly, and we have put in place designated points of contact across Merseyside to achieve this. We are working hard to improve confidence in the work we do and I meet with the Senior Presiding Judge alongside other CRC CEOs to update her on progress.
We have a very clear focus on enforcement activity and the data shows increased numbers of supervisees being returned to court more quickly when they don’t comply, particularly in relation to Community Payback orders where we are also making inroads into the numbers going beyond 12 months to complete their hours of work. I am mindful that the rigour with which we are tackling things has increased pressure in some courts, with greater numbers being returned; but nonetheless it is important to keep breaches strictly enforced if we are to rebuild confidence.
I think it’s important to keep you appraised of our resourcing situation. Together with the National Probation Service, in the short to medium term we are both competing for an ever diminishing pool of probation officers. Whilst we continue to train staff to qualify as probation officers (called Senior Case Managers in our organisation), their training takes some time and we cannot get the numbers we need to meet our staffing model. So despite best efforts we continue to operate with a deficit. This is a national problem and we are focused on ways to mitigate against the issues that it creates.
We do maximise our spend on front-line staff and ensure that all other efficiencies are made, but the reality is that CRC resources are tight. We have excellent staff, a commitment to training and developing them to do an excellent job for the courts, but like most leaders of organisations delivering public services, I’d like more of them.
I do hope that you are also seeing the impact of what we’re doing to improve confidence, and that you are able to take one of the growing number of opportunities to meet CRC staff. Please do contact us via the channels discussed in this newsletter if you would like to organise a meeting or learn more about our work.
Paths to Success
We are developing a brochure for Sentencers called Paths to Success which will contain information about all of the interventions that we have on offer.
Paths to Success will be published by the end of August. It will include details about every intervention, including its duration and what benefits the offender will receive by successfully completing it. The brochure will be illustrated by quotes from offenders who have participated in courses giving their opinion about what they learnt.
Hard copies of Paths to Success will be distributed to each court and it will also be hosted on our website. If you would like to receive a posted copy, please click this link and send us your contact details.
Government gives women’s services on Merseyside thumbs up
The Government’s lead for women offenders in the community visited Merseyside CRC to learn more about the organisation’s approach to female services.
Carina Carey, the head of women offenders in the community at Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, met with staff and service users at two women’s centres; Women’s Turnaround centre and Tomorrow Women’s Wirral.
Carina was invited by M CRC’s community director Rosie Goodwin, who is MCRC lead for women offenders and also sits on the CRCs Strategic Leads for Women’s Services, a national body hosted by the Ministry of Justice.
TWW is lead by a charity and probation staff are co-located at the building, whereas the Turnaround Project is lead by M CRC, but involves partners agencies such as PSS.
Carina said: “Thank you so much to Merseyside CRC, their partners and service users for hosting such a thought provoking and informative visit for our HMPPS Women’s Team.
“It was inspiring to see and hear the sheer commitment and drive to achieve positive life changing outcomes for women by working together.
“We would wish to commend you on your effective partnership working and have taken away examples of good practice of working with women who offend or are at risk of offending.”
Carina also attended a meeting of the Merseyside Women’s Services Alliance which is made of senior leads for women’s services across Merseyside.
Rosie said: “I am absolutely delighted that Carina took the time to visit us and learn more about the work we do to reduce re-offending among our female service users.
“I am proud of the services we deliver. TWW and the Turnaround Project are both very highly regarded, and I know Carina left with a very good impression of our work.
“Part of the tour included us having lunch with Donna, one of our service users. Donna told Carina how she arrives at TWW at 9am and participates in the activities there. She only leaves when it shuts – at 5pm. She then sits on a bench with other drinkers until the night shelter opens at 10.30pm. She has nowhere to live, but hasn’t re-offended and is being supported as much as possible to find appropriate accommodation. This is the reality of our work.”
Rosie will be attending the launch of the Government strategy for female offenders at Westminster in September. She will be representing Interserve and pushing forward the agenda of rehabilitative outcomes for females caught up in the Criminal Justice System.
Building Better Relationships
Roy Cook (left) is an M CRC programme manager and is pictured delivering a BBR session to service users.
Across Merseyside there are 5,000 offences of domestic abuse committed every year, and Merseyside CRC is at the forefront of working to help perpetrators make positive changes.
Men who have committed more serious forms of domestic abuse – such as assault, harassment, stalking and breaches of restraining orders – can be sentenced to complete Building Better Relationships (BBR). BBR is a nationally accredited programme that is run by M CRC, and is designed to reduce re-offending by men convicted of violence against their partner.
BBR is a run in a group setting and helps offenders learn more about the types of behaviour that damage relationships and look at ways to avoid those scenarios; helps people gain a better understanding of themselves and helps people develop their skills and learn new ones to overcome difficulties.
Across M CRC, there are roughly 120 men sentenced to BBR every quarter. The programme has a 90 per cent successful completion rate.
Rosie Goodwin, M CRC’s community director, said: “We take delivery of the programme extremely seriously as obviously it’s a serious offence, and impacts not just on partners but also on families.
“However, we also know that when behaviours are challenged, it is possible for people to make excellent progress and to implement positive changes.
“We are proud that nine out of 10 men complete this course successfully, and recent feedback illustrates that is having an extremely positive impact.”
M CRC asks men to complete feedback after completing the course.
PM said: “I can’t stress enough how surprised I was by BBR. The course was engaging and interesting. I learned so much about myself along the way. The facilitators were friendly, approachable and made the experience so much more comfortable for me and my peers.”
GP said: “The programme has taught me the importance of listening. I’m amazed by how much it’s made me aware of the people that are there for me. I never saw this before. I can’t recommend the programme highly enough.”
WD said: “The programme isn’t just about building better relationships; it’s about learning lifelong skills that can be used every single day. I’m sad that it’s over.”
JB said: “I thought I was genuinely happy back then, but now having been through this I can see that I wasn’t happy at all, and I can say that now I am the happiest I’ve ever been.”
IM said: “The facilitators are more like mentors than teachers. They’ve understood and supported us. Thank you.”
Amy finds new hope thanks to Community Payback
Amy Sutton (pictured left) 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 CRC’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 (pictured right), 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: “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.”
Unique project helps Sarah deliver
M CRC's Lisa Wallwork (left) with P3's Jackie Hampson
Once one of Merseyside’s most notorious shoplifters, Sarah* has now become a mum thanks to overcoming addictions with support from a unique project.
The top 20 most prolific re-offenders at HMP Styal were targeted for support as part of a Through the Gate pilot launched at the prison last year. The initiative was formed by Merseyside CRC together with Shelter; P3, a peer mentoring charity; and HMP Styal.
Sarah has been jailed more times that she can remember, and has spent most of her life addicted to crack cocaine, heroin and valium.
However, since she was released in May last year, Sarah is now in stable accommodation, on a decreasing methadone prescription, and has not re-offended since August. She has also just given birth to a baby boy.
When Sarah found out she was pregnant, she was living in a tent in her boyfriend’s dad’s back garden.
She said: “I was so well known across St Helens and Liverpool I had to get lifts to other towns in order to steal three times a day to feed my habit. I was known as Mrs Farm Food because they had the biggest bags and so that’s what I always had.
“I am so embarrassed to admit it now. I feel shame.”
Merseyside CRC commissions P3 to work with prolific offenders and commissions Shelter to deliver resettlement work at prisons across the region, including HMP Styal.
The organisations pooled resources to support the pilot, which is aimed at stopping people from re-offending. The women’s wrap-around support package continues whether or not they are in HMP Styal or the community, so that re-offending does not interrupt the provision. It has achieved considerable success, with most of the 20 either experiencing longer periods between offences, or – as is the case with Sarah – remaining offence free.
Jackie Hampson, P3 link worker, has provided intensive support to Sarah. Because of the risks Sarah initially posed, two P3 staff attended every GP, health and accommodation appointment Sarah had for the first six months of her release to support her.
Sarah said: “I was homeless. I never actually spent a night on the streets, but I didn’t have my own place. At first I could tell Jackie was nice and that was refreshing, but being released didn’t feel different.
“Then finding out I was pregnant helped me change my mind set.
“Jackie was persistent. During every good part of my life in the last nine months, Jackie has been there. And if I’m about to mess up, it’s P3 who have been there.”
Jackie said: “Over time we built a rapport. She knew she could ring me anytime. I helped link her in with her GP, mental health support and housing. Previously she missed appointments, so I attended with her and got things on a new footing.
“Sarah grew up in care and experienced things that no child should have to live through. The fact that she is now settled and has become a mum makes me feel very emotional. I will miss working with Sarah. She is an incredible person.”
Sarah and her partner have now maintained a tenancy. Both have also completed detox programmes. Sarah is supervised by M CRC’s probation case manager Lisa Wallwork, who specialises in custodial cases and prolific offenders.
Lisa, who is based at the CRC’s St Helens’ office, said: “Sarah has been subject to recall after recall after recall and at one point was responsible for 20 per cent of the shop thefts in St Helens.
“By working closely with Jackie, we have created a support network that has given Sarah a platform to become drug free within nine months and to have made truly exceptional progress.
“The fact Sarah has a child protection order for her child, rather than the child being taken into care, is testament to an incredible transformation. I am so proud of Sarah and wish her all the best. Just like Jackie, I miss working with Sarah.”
Sarah said: “Without probation and P3 I would still be in trouble. But now I have too much to lose. Before I never felt I was treated like a human being. Now I cannot fault the support I’ve had and my parents have accepted me back into their lives.
“For the first time in my life I don’t see any point in doing crime.”
*Sarah is not her real name.