Foreword by Chief Executive Chris Edwards
Welcome to the second edition of Changing Lives, our publication for sentencers across Merseyside.
This edition includes articles about:
- a new volunteer scheme we have launched at HMP Liverpool
- changes to our women’s services
- feedback from beneficiaries about Community Payback.
I write at a time when we approach the three year point of our initial seven year contract. We have covered a huge amount of ground in terms of personnel and structural changes – a number of new buildings offering improved working conditions for staff and those we supervise, modernised IT and a Professional Services Centre to help deliver efficient administration across all our services and maximise front line resources.
Whilst we have come a long way, there is more to do and new challenges emerge. The pace of our progress has been restricted by two key factors in my judgement – the lack of qualified probation officer staff and the loss of our direct relationship with Sentencers in lower and higher courts.
The former we are addressing by investing in CRC staff to qualify as Probation Officers (our Senior Case Managers), I’m very proud to announce our first graduates came through this system at the end of 2017 following a major recruitment drive, and with the latter I am pleased that we have a growing dialogue with Crown and Magistrates Courts which includes training events and liaison meetings.
Having spent three years working hard to embed the systems and operating model which won the contract to deliver – for example implementing a number of services commissioned from the charitable sector aimed at improving rates of rehabilitation and reduced offending – we must now refocus our attention on ensuring our enforcement practice and delivery of court sentences are of the highest standard in all locations.
I see many examples of excellent and innovative work being completed by our staff, whether it be the reparative benefits of Community Payback or the delivery of Domestic Violence Programmes, and I am now asking my Senior Management Team to assure themselves that we have the right balance between providing rehabilitative opportunities and promptly enforcing those who don’t comply with our expectations.
Having the confidence of Sentencers as key stakeholders in what we do is our top priority – we will work tirelessly to establish this and our links with courts . My Senior Team and many of my operational staff are long serving probation professionals who take great pride in a job well done and are blending the best of traditional practice alongside new innovations, better buildings and IT to develop and deliver a modern service into the future. I look forward to continuing to work with you.
If you have any questions or would like to arrange a visit to our CRC to learn more about our work, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
Chief Executive Officer
Community Payback praised
Offenders carrying out a range of Community Payback tasks across Merseyside have been praised by beneficiaries for their efforts.
Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company supervises people on unpaid work orders who undertake projects all year round, and by doing so make reparations for the crimes they have committed.
The Trustees of Toxteth Town Hall Community Resource Centre have thanked offenders for installing planters, removing weeds and rubbish from a popular garden during an on-going initiative which started two-years-ago.
The charity stated: “Community Payback has transformed a blight on the landscape into a thriving community space.
“Thanks to the work being done we now run two gardening clubs. The added benefit is that this project has improved our relations with our neighbours. Because the site has been developed, used and valued, fly-tipping has decreased and some neighbours even donated water butts and tools for us and we invited them to our summer fete.
“The Community Payback team has also helped paint our centre, which has spruced up the place.
“As a small charity with limited resources, the services offered by the Community
Payback team are vital to us. Without the team, we simply couldn’t develop the site.”
The gardening club include adults with disabilities and mental health issues, together with a young family club that includes 25 children.
Offenders have also been praised by parishioners and vicars at two churches in the city.
The Vicar of St Bartholomew’s Church, in Roby, Liverpool, said: “I was delighted to see a lot of rubbish had been removed. I also highlighted Community Payback’s support at the Annual Church Meeting and it is much appreciated by everyone.”
And finally, church steward Sue Steel, from Garston Park Church, in Garston Old Road, Liverpool, contacted M CRC to thank Community Payback for the work undertaken.
She said: “Thanks again for all the work the payback team has carried out. We couldn’t have managed to keep on top of it without your input and hard work.
“Our church grounds are extensive and our congregation is small. One plot of land attracts fly tippers and we are embarrassed by the amount of rubbish dumped there.
“The team has cleared a lot of that area and it looked much improved. The payback team has weeded our paths and tidied up borders and edges. People comment on how much improved the gardens look after the team has been.”
It’s good to talk
Merseyside CRC has been working closely with the National Probation Service and the Judiciary to improve the communication flow between the courts and CRC.
Rosie Goodwin, M CRC’s community director, is responsible for liaison with the courts and is focused on improving engagement and dialogue between the services.
She said: “Recent developments have included the creation of single points of contact for Magistrates and Crown Court in order to ensure that requests for information can be processed in a timely fashion which befits the challenges of on the day sentencing.
“Other work in progress includes the improvement of information from GPs relating to medical conditions when applications for revocation on medical grounds are made.
“If Sentencers have any other suggestions they would like to pass onto me, I would be delighted to hear from you.”
To contact Rosie, email: [email protected]
Through the Gate volunteer scheme launched
Colleagues from a range of agencies celebrated the launch of a volunteer peer mentor scheme aimed at improving Through the Gate provision in Merseyside.
Through the Gate was launched by the government three years ago and is aimed at supporting people released from short term custodial sentences to make a successful transition into the community – supported by probation and partner agencies.
More than 40 people from across the criminal justice service met at Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company’s (M CRC) HQ to hear from speakers describing what the peer mentor initiative has to offer.
M CRC’s network developer Sharon Reddy and volunteer coordinator Louise Grzyb (pictured second right alongside peer mentors) developed the volunteer peer mentor scheme in conjunction with Shelter’s Caroline Griffiths, who manages Through the Gate contract service commissioned by probation.
The scheme involves volunteer peer mentors linking up with prisoners at HMP Liverpool to support their release. Service users are referred to mentors by Shelter’s resettlement workers. Volunteers aim to meet with people preparing for release at least three times in the prison, and then post-release to help with things such as attending key appointments, arranging benefits and sign-posting to organisations.
The peer mentors feed information back to resettlement works and M CRC’s case managers, and typically work on issues such as: accommodation; debt and signposting to services like drug agencies and employment and training advisors.
Louise said: “We know from experience that people in custody often want to feel that the community cares. What more visible expression of that can there be than being met by volunteers, especially when many of those volunteers have themselves had similar experiences?
“Problems with Through the Gate are well documented. We don’t see peer mentors as a magic wand, but we do think that they can provide an invaluable bridge into the community so that we can genuinely offer a through the gate service.”
M CRC’s peer mentor provision recently received accreditation and already includes 40 volunteers. Three were present at the event, including a university student and two who – between them – have had several custodial sentences.
Klark Carney, peer mentor, said: “When I got out of jail there was none of this. I got given £40 and went to probation to tick a few boxes.
“I’d decided I wanted to spend no more time in jail. But after being out for a couple of days, I had nowhere to turn. I know I made my own choices, I made my own mistakes. But it’s tough when you feel there are no other opportunities.
“I’ve seen what it’s like when it doesn’t work. If I can do my bit to make that experience better for someone, that’d be fantastic.”
All volunteers receive six weeks of training, DBS screening and continued support during their period with M CRC. It is hoped each volunteer will commit to a minimum of four hours per week for six months.
Sharon said: “We cannot do this on our own. We all know we can only really help people with complex needs achieve successful outcomes if we all work in partnership.
“We are extremely proud of our mentors, they are amazing people, but we also know many other organisations have excellent volunteer schemes too and we are keen to create a vibrant network.
“Ultimately we all have the same aim: to enhance the service for our service users.”
Helen talks about probation’s support
Helen Gray has praised probation for helping her come to terms with her bi-polar condition and to quit alcohol.
The 38-year-old, from Liverpool, is supervised by the Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company (M CRC) having being sentenced to probation for slashing tyres on an ex-boyfriend’s car.
Helen (pictured left) is one of scores of women supported by the Women’s Turnaround Centre, in Kirkdale. Like many of the attendees, Helen participates in extra courses on a voluntary basis over and above those that her sentence requires her to complete.
She is supervised by M CRC’s probation case manager Jo Wharton (pictured right). She also attends the Alcohol Recovery Centre (ARC) every Friday and a coffee morning hosted at the Turnaround centre every Wednesday, among other groups.
Helen said: “Alcohol sends me over the edge. Every time I’ve ended up in custody it’s been because I got drunk and lost control.
“Probation has helped me look at what causes me to drink, how to train my mind to think of different ways to cope.
“Alcohol messes with my medication. It may make me feel better for a bit, but when I lose control I either end up in trouble or with a terrible hangover that makes me feel worse and even more depressed.”
ARC is a female only group and helps participants think about what causes them to drink and to look at alternative ways to relax.
Helen said: “I want to be abstinent. It’s hard work, there’s an expectation to go out drinking on a Friday, alcohol advertising is everywhere and everyone drinks on the soaps – but so far it’s working well for me.”
Helen meets Jo at the drop-in centres and also for regular supervision meetings.
Helen said: “Jo is brilliant. I hit a really bad patch four weeks ago. I was homeless for a night and Jo helped sort accommodation for me and helped me get back on my feet. She helped with clothing and food and made me feel more stable.
“I definitely think probation has helped me. I’ve been on probation in the past, I felt supported then as well, but this time even more so. I enjoy taking part in the groups, I can tell that they are helping me.”
Jo said: “Helen has made tremendous progress during her time on probation and we are all really proud of the efforts she has made.”
Lynn Robertson, who works with partner organisation PSS based at the Women’s Turnaround Centre, has provided counseling support to Helen.
She added: “When I first met Helen it was clear she was nervous and didn’t believe in herself. She has made massive progress and is now a shining example of what people on probation – with the right support – can achieve.”
Helen added: “My dream now is to volunteer to help others on probation and to work in this sector. I want to support people who need help.”
Merseyside CRC launches Women’s Alliance to support vulnerable women
Merseyside CRC with the backing of the Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell, has launched the Merseyside Women’s Services Alliance.
The alliance aims to give a joined-up approach in providing effective interventions and support for women experiencing complex and multiple needs, many of whom are caught up in the criminal justice system.
The launch builds on the recommendations made by Baroness Corston which called on probation services and other partner agencies to provide bespoke services for vulnerable women which include the creation of women’s centres. Here, attendees can visit, receive support and carry out the terms of their sentence in a female friendly environment.
The Deputy PCC Emily Spurrell said: ‘The PCC and I are fully committed to working with partners to address the complex issues around women’s offending and ultimately reduce the number of women in our prison system.
“There is lots of good work already being done by partners, such as Merseyside CRC, but if we really want to tackle women’s offending, we need a targeted and focused partnership approach. I look forward to working with the Merseyside Women’s Alliance to take forward this important work.”
Merseyside CRC delivers a range of women’s services to service users including the Women’s Turnaround Centre in Kirkdale and the award-winning Tomorrow’s Women Wirral which offers a wide range of support for women through their rehabilitation.
Merseyside CRC’s Women’s Turnaround programme is specifically designed to support women in Liverpool and Sefton. The Women’s Turnaround programme offers individual support, legal advice, advocacy, housing benefit and debt management, employment, education and training, reading groups, health and well-being support, drug and alcohol abuse and counselling.
Tomorrow’s Women Wirral (TWW) is an inclusive support network for thousands of women on Merseyside and beyond. Based in Birkenhead, TWW aims to empower women to make positive lifestyle changes. Through a monthly timetable of courses and activities, women can gain new stills and experiences enabling them to change their circumstances for the better.
TTW works with women from all backgrounds including survivors of previous and current domestic abuse; drug and alcohol misuse; mental health issues; learning difficulties; social care and more.