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News

February 20, 2017

It’s great outdoors at Huddersfield school thanks to community payback workers

Kirkburton Church of England First School has undergone a major transformation over the past four months with significant improvements to the outdoor play areas thanks to the work of offenders on Community Payback.

Community Payback, managed by the West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), has involved teams of people on unpaid work orders at the village school.

Work – which saved the school more than £3,600 - included the clearing of brambles and other undergrowth from the perimeter of the school field and the removal of saplings the woodland and surrounding areas. A circular woodland path has been restored and made safe for the children to access with the removal of holly, brambles and nettles in the area.

Colette Kitson, acting deputy head teacher, said: “The children are delighted to be able to run behind the shelter in the playground now following the removal of invasive climbing plants. Parents can now see the beauty of the school grounds as they come through the side gate instead of overgrown shrubbery, choking trees and general debris spoiling the entrance.”

“The Community Payback team were very respectful of the school and grounds and clearly worked hard under Community Payback placement supervisor Elaine Bialkowska’s direction.”

Eddie Sladdin, community payback placement co-ordinator at West Yorkshire CRC, said: “Since we began work at Kirkburton School, the reaction from school children, teachers, parents and other visitors has been very positive as they have witnessed at the genuine contribution offenders can make when working on a Community Payback scheme.”

Community Payback aims to rehabilitate offenders through working on projects that benefit the community.

Martin Davies, chief executive of West Yorkshire CRC, said: “Community Payback schemes like the one delivered at Kirkburton School provide a means by which offenders learn new skills to support their rehabilitation and future employment prospects, and also put something back into their local community.”

January 21, 2017

CASE STUDY: Ex-offender Jason Brown – helping offenders break the cycle of crime

Bradford-born Jason Brown was convicted and imprisoned for four years for robbery after a life of petty crime in his youth.

Today he has two degrees, including one in criminology, and is currently studying for a masters at Leeds Beckett University. He also works for charity User Voice in West Yorkshire which he credits with helping him find a new and fulfilling role in society.

User Voice was founded in 2009 by Mark Johnson, an ex-offender and former drug abuser. Mark’s story embodies the transformative change which User Voice strives to achieve. Mark’s direct contact with the criminal justice system, and later as an employer of ex-offenders and consultant for government and other charities, left him convinced of the urgent need to create a model of offender engagement that is fair for all involved.

One key area of User Voice’s work is Service User Councils. These offer a structured forum where offenders can come together to discuss how to make improvements to probation and give them a voice in their rehabilitation.

Jason says: “User Voice’s work is led and delivered by ex-offenders like me who try to consistently foster a dialogue between offenders and providers of services within the criminal justice system.

“For many reasons probation was not working for me but when I attended my first Service User Council meeting it became clear that people were listening to what I was saying, understood where I was coming from and giving me the belief that I could achieve the things that I wanted to.

“I could have relapsed into a life of crime, hanging out with my old mates with the same temptations but User Voice planted the seed and I kept the faith. I now work with a team of ex-offenders who help offenders turn their life around.

He says working with User Voice and being engaged in the Service User Councils helped him enter into voluntary work and later encouraged him to go back into education. “I feel I’ve achieved more in the last six years than I did in the previous 20 years,” he says.

West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) has recently begun working in partnership with User Voice, to support offenders as they progress through the criminal justice system.

Karen Townend, community director at West Yorkshire CRC said: “Key to User Voice’s work are Service User Councils. These offer a structured forum where offenders and West Yorkshire CRC staff can come together to discuss how to make improvements to probation and give service users a voice.”

Jason says offenders and those on probation want to be heard and they also want to stop re-offending but after of a life of crime breaking that habit is difficult. “That’s where we come in,” says Jason. “As ex-offenders we understand where they have been because we’ve been there ourselves and we are living proof that you can live your life in another way – a more positive way.”

There's nothing an offender can throw at him that he hasn't heard or said himself before, and Jason says this is why there is nobody better placed to help offenders get their lives back on track.

"The reason I do this is because I've been there myself," he says. "Probation workers and social workers can all help, but prisoners don’t realise it is possible to change until they meet somebody who has.

"I encourage them to set goals that are achievable - not what am I going to do in five years but what am I going to do today.

“We try to break down the “us and them” mentality which can exist between the service user and the probation service because that doesn’t help anyone. And it doesn’t work for everyone but I know if I can get one prisoner to volunteer to do charity work they will be on the right trajectory.”

The Councils are groups of people who are, or have been on probation or licence. They engage with other people who report to probation offices about issues to do with their rehabilitation. Following the engagement work, proposals are developed which are aimed at resolving any common issues which can lead to re-offending.

January 21, 2017

User Voice and West Yorkshire CRC join forces to stop offenders from re-offending

West Yorkshire CRC has announced a partnership with charity User Voice, to support offenders as they progress through the criminal justice system.

User Voice is led and delivered by ex-offenders, who have the special ability to gain the trust of, access to, and insight from people within the criminal justice system.

West Yorkshire CRC is responsible for supervising offenders and ensuring they comply with their sentence and the orders of the court. It manages more than 11,000 offenders at any one time and an average of 900 new cases a month. West Yorkshire CRC is part of Purple Futures, an Interserve-led partnership.

Jason Brown, engagement team member at User Voice in West Yorkshire, said: “We work on the principle that only offenders can stop re-offending so those in prison can talk to ex-offenders to understand how they can turn their lives around.

“Rehabilitation is possible, and people with convictions can turn their lives into an active force for good in society. Rehabilitation is the goal of all User Voice’s work, a process which goes deeper than reducing offending.”

Karen Townend, community director at West Yorkshire CRC said: “Jason is a great example of how the probation service can work with people to make a key difference to their lives. Key to User Voice’s work are Service User Councils. These offer a structured forum where offenders and West Yorkshire CRC staff can come together to discuss how to make improvements to probation and give service users a voice.”

The Councils are groups of people who are, or have been on probation or licence. They engage with other people who report to probation offices about issues to do with their rehabilitation. Following the engagement work, proposals are developed which are aimed at resolving any common issues which can lead to re-offending.

Bradford-born Mr Brown, who served four years in jail for robbery, said: “I understand the trigger points that lead to criminality because I have experienced them first hand but I have come out the other side and the offenders we talk to appreciate that.”

While in prison Mr Brown went back into education and now has a degree in criminology and is currently studying for a masters at Leeds Beckett University.

Gail Bland, User Voice programme manager and another ex-offender, said: “The offenders’ involvement can often have wider and unforeseen benefits for rehabilitation. When they are involved in the design and delivery of rehabilitation services they are often its most powerful advocate, promoting understanding among offenders and acting as ambassadors for change and rehabilitation.

She added: “User Voice is well placed to gain the trust and access to those involved in crime or who have direct experience of the criminal justice system. Its work aims to deliver a powerful rehabilitation experience for service users, better criminal justice services and institutions, and more effective policy. “

January 20 2017

Reformed drug offender brings drama and poetry to the community with Life Experience

A group of ex-offenders and former drug users are using their real life experiences to help young people and prisoners avoid going down the same route of a life of crime and drug addiction.

Phil Pearce, 33, from Beeston, has set up social enterprise, Life Experience, and uses poetry and drama to help schools and offenders understand the perils of drugs and crime and how to ensure they avoid the mistakes made by ex-offenders.

Life Experience is run by five volunteers – four of which have had experience of drug abuse or have done time behind bars. They're currently visiting schools, hostels and prisons across West Yorkshire to raise awareness of drug abuse and knife crime.

Phil, who is now in full-time employment with Leeds City Council and is currently seeking employment in the probation service, said: “The turning point for me came when I went to prison. In Armley Prison it dawned on me the damage that drugs does to yourself, your family and friends.

“With the help of the prison service, the Twelve Steps Fellowship and West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) I’ve managed to turn around my life and wanted to share my experience and that of other ex-offenders.”

Phil and other members of Life Experience, which includes a former police officer, now perform a mixture of poetry and drama in schools, prisons and community projects.

Most recently the group have been performing a play about Spice, the so-called legal high which has become popular among drugs users particularly in prison, where it has caused major disruption.

Phil said: “The play has been well received in schools and in prisons particularly in Armley and Kirkham. I think why the performance is so powerful and meaningful is because it’s done by people have had that bad life experience and come through it. Spice can really mess up your life but we can show people a way out of it.”

Life Experience, which is looking for further volunteers and those recovering from drug abuse to join them, is currently working on a drama of the perils of carrying a knife

Phil said: “There is a lot of support out there from Narcotics Anonymous and the local probation service who can really help. The support and trust I received from West Yorkshire CRC’s Austin Butler really helped me and it was because of him that we launched Life Experience.”

Scott Wilson, principal at Farnley Academy, said of Life Experience’s recent work “this has been the best impactive session in over two years. It’s a testament to [Life Experience] that we have received such fantastic feedback”.

WY CRC is responsible for supervising offenders and ensuring they comply with their sentence and the orders of the court. It manages more than 11,000 offenders at any one time and an average of 900 new cases a month.

Life Experience has a dedicated Facebook page with details about the initiative an how to volunteer.

22nd December 2015

Thanks to all our volunteers

On behalf of all my colleagues I would like to thank our fabulous volunteers for all their hard work, dedication and commitment to our service users during 2016. The volunteering scheme makes such a difference to many of our service users whether it’s a once-off piece of work or on-going support. May we wish you all an enjoyable break and a very happy and peaceful New Year.

Good News: Due to the success of the in-house counselling service we have now offered placements to two additional counselling students making a total of five for Wakefield and Kirklees. To build on its success we are now looking at offering placements to two students in the Leeds area who will be placed at York Road, Leeds. Volunteer Coordinator Katie Leon has already made links with the appropriate learning establishments to get the ball rolling in addition to exploring the idea with the teams in Leeds who are really interested in the service starting up.

Merry Christmas
Sarah Garg
Volunteer Coordinator Kirklees & Wakefield

15th April 2015

Ofsted Rating for Services for Children in Leeds

Ofsted has rated services for children in Leeds as ‘Good’ overall after an unannounced inspection. The inspection focused on services for children in need of help and protection, looked after children and care leavers. WYCRC is an integral organisation within the partnership which supports great outcomes for children, young people and the families of Leeds.

Leeds becomes one of only eleven local authorities from over 40 inspected so far, under the current framework, to have achieved a ‘good’ rating overall (none have yet achieved ‘outstanding' overall).

WYCRC continues to contribute to improvements in inter agency systems and through our involvement in the families. The Ofsted report states that Leeds has a successful Families First programme.

The programme draws upon a restorative approach and strong multi-agency partnerships, to create a single plan for a family with a clearly-allocated lead practitioner. WYCRC have been a key partner in the delivery of the Families First Programme. The Inspectors saw evidence of a positive impact on outcomes such as school attendance, crime reduction and employment.

Councillor Judith Blake Executive Member for Children and Families says ‘this report demonstrates that our approach and our partnership is working and gives us momentum to keep improving. We are all acutely aware of the challenges Leeds continues to face as a city if we are to make lasting improvements to the life chances of the next generation. Nevertheless, this report feedback highlights that our progress together and collective effort is taking us in the right direction.

Read the full Ofsted report for Leeds here: http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/leeds.

13th April 2015

Right Direction Volunteers Recognised at Celebration Event

Right Direction aims to recruit ex-service users to support current service users to successfully complete their orders. Through training they can gain a Level 1 award in probation Volunteering Skills which is great for enhancing their CV.

The volunteers act as a positive role model to show what service users can achieve offering inspiration and support along the way.
Tracy began volunteering at the end of her license. She says:

‘I had low self esteem and confidence and felt isolated and alone. Volunteering gave me an opportunity to give something back, develop my confidence and self esteem and I made new positive friendships. I volunteered for 12 months and am now in full time employment.
Right Direction definitely did change my life for the better and now I have been given the chance to help others change theirs’

The Right Direction Celebration Event held at St George’s Centre in Leeds saw 17 of the volunteers receive their certificates which marked the completion of their training. Our CEO, Bill McHugh was on hand to deliver the certificates to all of our well deserving volunteers. Before this he spoke to the group and let them know how much he appreciates and values their hard work and efforts to becoming positive role models.

‘I always believe in second chances for people, I want a balanced organisation and I see many people sitting here who I hope are going to be my future employees. I hope this is the start of your journey to moving on and becoming someone you want to be. I want to congratulate you all and say thank you for the difference that you are going to make to other peoples lives’

We hope that the skills learnt through the Right Direction Volunteer Training programme will be building blocks as they move onto new ventures, and that these skills are used to help other service users in the future.

Congratulations and well done.

17th March 2015

Woodhouse Mills Pond - Community Payback

After

Before

Back in February this year the WYCRC Community Payback team were contacted by Woodhouse Mills Pond, a local wildlife sanctuary in Huddersfield, requesting help to build an outdoor water area which would be used as a teaching facility at North Huddersfield Trust School.

Joe Beaver, a Senior Lab Technician at the school, initiated the project as a way to create a safe water area within the school grounds. The Community Payback team saw the project as a fantastic opportunity to help build a legacy for generations to come, while allowing children at all levels to connect with the full life cycle of plants and insects.

Joe was exceptionally pleased with the support and hard work from those on the Community Payback programme. Joe says “All my preconceptions of Community Payback workers were dispelled in just a few hours, they worked incredibly hard, were pleasant and to be honest the complete opposite of what I expected. I was genuinely shocked at the work rate and the amount of work completed. I would have been happy if the litter was removed, but look at it now, a pond, with the surrounding land ready to plant and the whole area around cleaned up.”

West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company actively encourages the public, faith groups, local businesses, voluntary groups and local authorities to contact us and nominate projects which will make a real difference to our communities. Please view our Community Payback page for more information, or email WY_CRC@west-yorkshire.probation.gsi.gov.uk to suggest a project.

16th March 2015

EFQM

WYCRC achieves top excellence status!

We are proud to announce that we are the first CRC under new ownership to successfully achieve the EFQM two star status.
The European Excellence Model (EFQM) is an accreditation which shows how well an organisation is performing and where improvements are needed. Organisations are assessed on a number of criteria such as; leadership, strategy, people, partnerships, resources, products, processes and services.

Bill McHugh, Chief Executive at WYCRC, says "We decided to apply for the EFQM because we are committed to continually reviewing and improving our work. We know that The West Yorkshire Probation is a great CRC, but we also know we could be even better. In an increasingly competitive world, we need to be the best."

Our level of engagement from employees involved in the EFQM application further impressed the EFQM Assessor, with the organisation stating; "We congratulate The West Yorkshire CRC in gaining the two star status, we fully appreciate the enthusiasm and passion shown for the delivery of excellence across the organisation."

This rating makes us stand out from the crowd and shows that we are an organisation to be trusted to do our job, and to do it well. We focus on delivering probation services to offenders with complex needs, who pose a risk, and often have chaotic and troubled lives. We work with our partners and the National Probation Service to deliver innovative approaches, to supervise and rehabilitate offenders, in order to reinforce our central commitment of making West Yorkshire a safer place to live and work.

EFQM Committed to Excellence 2 star status is part of the recognition available for applicants to EFQM Committed to Excellence and is available to those organisations which choose to apply for the new Assessment option. Visit: http://www.bqf.org.uk/ or http://www.efqm.org/ for more information on the status award.

11th March 2015

Alexene 10 Downing Street

Alexene's Comic Relief Celebrations at 10 Downing Street!

In May 2014 Alexene Nellist, Diversity and Development officer at WYCRC, completed an unbelievable coast to coast walk alongside her sister Ashleigh and best friend Kim, walking from Cumbria to Robin Hoods Bay, and finally ending in Scarborough. This 13 day walk covered a staggering 209 miles, and raised over £2,013.00 for Sport and Comic Relief. Comic and Sport Relief are charities close to Alexene’s heart, due to the fun memories she has of raising money at school, and watching the charity show every year on TV. In addition, the fact that a Comic Relief funded project is never more than 30 miles away from every person inspires Alexene further.

Over the last few years Alexene has co-ordinated bake sales and tombolas for staff members at WYCRC, a passion which she shares with her sister Ashleigh, who also hosts a number of Comic and Sport relief events at her home town of Scarborough. The sisters further held a fashion show last year also which raised an amazing £1,853.00.

The group's hard work and dedication to the charity has not gone unnoticed, and on Tuesday the 10th of March they had the honour of attending a celebration event for fundraisers and supporters of Comic Relief, at 10 Downing Street! Rubbing shoulders with the likes of David and Samantha Cameron, Emma Freud and David Tennant, the ladies got to share their inspirational charity work.

Staff at WYCRC have supported Alexene’s charity work and are very proud of her achievements. Alexene says “I’d like to give a huge thank you to all West Yorkshire CRC staff for the continued support and for always putting their hand in their pockets, for Comic and Sport relief, when I’ve asked!”

8th March 2015

International Womens Day Logo

We are celebrating International Womens Day by highlighting the great work we do with female offenders. This is Jodie’s inspiring story:

"I committed my offence and the magistrate ordered me to do 15 hours with the West Yorkshire Probation CRC who then put me onto the Together Women Project. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I started my order. When I first met Donna my Probation Officer she gave me a timetable of what courses and groups I could attend. I went on lots of different activities like parenting classes, drug and alcohol workshops, life coaching classes, anger management groups, family links and nurturing parents’ classes.

Starting on the Together Women Project was the wakeup call I needed. I wanted to address all negative aspects of my life and the project offered everything I wanted. I finished my 15 hours very quickly and decided to stay on the project. I’ve been attending for more than 8 months now because there’s so much help on offer. I have a Support Worker called Sarah who helped me keep my house which I needed to get my children back. She also helped me work out how to reapply for the child benefits.

If it wasn’t for Donna and Sarah I’m sure I would be in a very dark place right now. I felt so lost and isolated. I was down, depressed and had nowhere to turn. With the support I’ve had my life is now very positive and I want to give something back. I wanted to help other women who are in my previous situation so I started volunteering on West Yorkshire Probation’s Right Direction programme where volunteers help offenders on their journey. Hopefully this will be a foot in the door for me; I’d really like to work for probation in the future. I just want to let people know that they’re not alone and there’s lots of help available. Now my kids are back with me and we’re very happy to be together."