Welcome to our fifth publication for sentencers. In this edition:
- A foreword by chief executive Chris Edwards
- An update on our Rehabilitation Activity Requirements
- How you can get in touch with us.
Foreword by Chief Executive Chris Edwards
Dear Judicial Colleagues,
I write at a time when the Government has outlined its intentions for probation after the current Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) contracts come to an end – confirmed now as spring 2021. I’d like to take this opportunity to underline to you all our ongoing commitment to keeping services on track and to deliver the sentences you impose, against this backdrop of further change.
As you can imagine, whilst having clarity of direction is helpful, it is unsettling for our staff and we will do all we can to keep our people focused on the job in hand. With just under two years to go, it is important we plan and work to minimise disruption and I see our ongoing development of Behaviour Change Interventions as a key part of this. We don’t want to limp over the line, but intend to continue to build and develop an increased range of modern and diverse options available to the courts.
Please consider that CRC employees are ‘probation people’, many long serving, who will continue to work in probation into the future. It is in this context that we see our activity now as being relevant to the long term wellbeing of the Criminal Justice System.
This edition of the Sentencers’ Newsletter sets out the growing range of interventions designed to reduce reoffending. Some are commissioned services by providers outside of the CRC but a number have been developed in-house using best practice principles and knowledge. We are both proud of the work that has gone into these and excited by their potential impact for Rehabilitation Activity Requirements in particular. Our commitment is to develop these further as we gather evidence through their implementation.
I look forward to CRC staff having increased levels of contact with sentencers over the next two years, and to the mutual benefits that greater transparency and familiarity will bring.
Merseyside CRC chief executive officer
Rehabilitation Activities launched in Merseyside
Merseyside CRC is rolling out a new range of rehabilitation activities as part of the organisation’s approach to delivering interventions.
The interventions have been developed by a team of experienced staff from across the CRC. They have taken an evidence-led approach and assimilated desistance theory into the design of all of the interventions.
In total 10 RARs and 17 brief interventions will come online over the coming months. Interventions tackling victim awareness, emotional management, thinking skills and domestic abuse are being prioritised for the first wave of roll out, which has already begun.
Interventions can be used to fulfil the requirements of Rehabilitation Activities or licence and Post Sentence Supervision activity.
The brief intervention suite has been developed to provide purposeful interventions to service users who have less complex needs and are assessed as a lower risk of causing serious harm and / or reoffending.
Donna Whitehall, community director, said: “We have developed a range of interventions each of which has a specific focus and can be undertaken as standalone activities but that can also be used as part of a package tailored for each service user.
“This reflects a central tenet of desistance theory, which says interventions are more likely to be effective when they are targeted to helping support an individual’s personal growth and social integration.
“Some interventions are more intense in terms of delivery than others and based on evidence that shows people respond best to behavioural change programmes that reflect their level of offending.”
HELP is a 15 session group work programme aimed at domestic abuse perpetrators or those individuals who have difficulty in maintaining healthy relationships.
STAR is an eight session group work programme aiming to explore and raise awareness of the hidden victim/impact of shop theft. This intervention will increase consequential thinking and reduce further offending behaviour.
Better Solutions is an eight session group work programme aimed at improving the individual’s thinking skills to avoid further offending. It raises awareness of the importance of clear and constructive thinking, helps to understanding the links between thoughts/feelings and behaviours. It explores emotional management, perspective taking, communication skills and encourages a pro social lifestyle.
Impact to Change is a generic victim awareness intervention based on restorative justice approaches which encourages the individual to explore the impact of their offending behaviour on their victims in order to reduce the number of victims in the future.
Managing Emotions is an eight session group work programme aiming to improve anger management to support positive, offence-free lifestyles and healthy relationships. This intervention will increase the individual’s understanding of anger, improve their self-awareness, develop emotional recognition, emotional expression and increase resilience.
Merseyside CRC is committed to offering viable alternatives to custody for our female service users through the implementation of the WISER programme and roll out of a female only Thinking Skills (TSP) accredited programme. WISER consists of 12 sessions covering areas such as emotional management, relationship skills, communication skills, budgeting and goal setting. WISER will be run solely out of our women only centres.
The RARs listed above are now available to both NPS and CRC service users; however offenders managed by the CRC will also have access to other new activities which have been designed to address offending related needs. For more information, please contact [email protected] or [email protected] .
Aaron quits cannabis thanks to probation
Aaron was caught growing cannabis after police raided his house, but thanks to his period on probation he has now quit the drug that had blighted his life.
The 27-year-old, from Liverpool, was charged with production of a class B substance and sentenced to a two-year Suspended Sentence Order, curfew and 150 hours Community Payback after appearing before Magistrates in 2017.
Aaron had been smoking cannabis throughout the day every day and it was having a serious impact on his health. He has now successfully completed his probation order and has not smoked drugs for more than six months.
Aaron was supervised by Sarah Kershaw, probation case manager for the Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company, and completed a course with Intuitive Recovery as part of his Rehabilitation Activity Requirement.
The police raided his house at 8am following a tip-off. They found Aaron smoking cannabis and illegal plants growing throughout his house.
He said: “I was a really bad pot head. I grew lots of different types of cannabis and used to sit in my house smoking all day.
“I thought I’d be going to jail, but that wouldn’t have worked out well for me. I’d have come out and would’ve carried on doing exactly the same thing.
“Thanks to probation I’m now a better person. I’ve changed my life around and have quit drugs. I feel so much better for it.”
Intuitive Recovery is an accredited programme that promotes abstinence by providing skills and tools to help individuals take responsibility for their behaviours.
Aaron said: “I was nervous starting probation, but it was clear from the outset that Sarah had my best interests at heart. She wanted me to change for the better because she genuinely cared about me. That meant so much to me and was exactly what I needed.
“She understood me. I enjoyed going in to meet her. I couldn’t have asked for a better probation officer. When I made mistakes she was there to encourage me to try again.
“I wanted to quit cannabis because it was making me anxious, aggressive, depressed and was ruining my life. But I’d been smoking for 15 years and couldn’t think how to fill my day without it.”
Aaron completed Intuitive Recovery, which is run by Intuitive Thinking Skills. Sessions were led by regional manager Matt Wilson.
Aaron said: “It was a fantastic course. Matt gave me the tools I needed to stop. He told me I didn’t need to give in to the voice in my head that was telling me to smoke more. It was my choice and I could do it.”
Sarah said: “When I first met him he was paranoid and smelt of cannabis to an extent I’d never previously experienced and I wasn’t sure he would progress.
“I began with informal conversations so that he could see that I wasn’t just another professional telling him how to behave and he really started to open up.”
As Aaron’s consumption decreased he began a relationship and after he completed probation the couple had a baby.
Sarah added: “He invited me to see his baby and I was made up. The house was immaculate and he’s now a normal, regular man with hopes and aspirations.
“We can run a million courses and have a million people through the door, but change is only possible if it’s something they want to do.
“I am really, really proud of Aaron and successes like that make the job worthwhile. It’s a privilege to have played a small part in what he has achieved.”
Aaron added: “I’ve got a partner and a baby and a good life now. I think probation has played a really important part in making that possible.”
Frank gets HELP
Frank* was referred to social services after rowing with his partner because his youngest son had become upset at school and told teachers about his fears.
The couple were invited into school. Both were asked by social services to voluntarily agree to attend courses run by the Merseyside CRC aimed at preventing domestic conflict.
Ten-years-ago, Frank, 32, had been convicted of domestic abuse and was sentenced to complete a course called Domestic Violence Awareness.
The father-of-three said: “The course’s name was hardly sweet on the tongue. I had bad memories from that. Coupled with the fact that this time I hadn’t been convicted of anything put me in a doubly-bad frame of mind before I started Help.
“My partner has depression. When we rowed, I felt really bad that we’d done it in front of the kids and that they’d been so affected.
“My boy had gone into school really upset. I want to do whatever I can to make sure that never happens again.”
Frank completed the Domestic Violence Awareness in 2008 and hated the experience.
He said “I felt labelled and that the course was condescending. The terms the other men used about women were terrible and it turned my stomach. They were all chauvinistic pigs.
“This time it was a totally different atmosphere, even starting with the course’s name. The way Help is presented, I didn’t feel like I was being judged, and the course flows and is directed by what participants discuss – rather than it being strictly delivered from a book.
“We get information and then learn about the tools to use it. Prevention is better than the cure. That’s the overriding message. And I feel it’s really made a different to me this time.”
Roy Cook, interventions lead, co-facilitates HELP at offices across Merseyside with his colleague Cindy Green.
Frank says he has learned to appreciate when the right time is to have difficult conversations.
He added: “In the heat of the moment letting everything out just doesn’t work. You don’t put things right, and only end up getting more worked up.
“De-stressing situations, taking time out, learning to think more from your partner’s perspective – these are all key things.
“I’ve given myself over to Roy and Cindy. It’s also really helpful to hear about the scenarios which other participants describe. We can all help and learn from each other.”
Roy said: “Frank has done exceptionally well and is eager to learn. He was willing to give the course a go even though his experience when he was younger was so negative. I think that illustrates how well interventions have developed over the years.
“We all make mistakes, we all lose our temper. Learning how to spot the signs to avoid you losing control, and learning how to better express yourself and your feelings – these are all skills which take time and application to develop.
“HELP is dedicated to achieving that aim.”
Frank* is not his real name.