Last month I spent the day with probation services provider BeNCH CRC (Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Community Rehabilitation Company) who supervise low and medium risk offenders in the community. The CRC’s purpose is to reduce reoffending and improve Quality of Life.
The first part of my day was spent with one of the CRC’s Community Payback Teams, who supervise those given an unpaid work order by the courts. Nominations for unpaid work are received by the CRC from the public, businesses and voluntary organisations that need help with tasks such as painting, removing graffiti, renovating public buildings and conservation work. This sentence can range from 40 to 300 hours and usually has to be completed within 12 months.
I got to see work being undertaken specifically at the Hare Krishna Temple, Bhaktivedanta Manor, near Watford. Community Payback attend this project 2-3 times a week and are largely involved in planting and sowing vegetables, which are grown by the temple to feed the homeless. The team also help with other jobs such as tending to the cattle, completing pathway repairs and ground maintenance.
I was able to spend time with the CRC Director, Ali Hancock, and senior members of the team, to discuss the general challenges faced by ex-offenders, most notably finding appropriate housing. I also learnt more about how they work in partnership with a range of other organisations, across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, such as HACRO and St Mungo’s.
Ali Hancock, Director BeNCH commented "In the midst of busy diaries, one of the most useful things I believe we should continue to make time for is any opportunity that enables us to showcase the work of probation providers, which is still a well kept secret at best, and potentially just misunderstood by many. The afternoon colleagues and I spent with the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, Suzy Harvey, enabled us to share some of the great outcomes as well as the on-going challenges BeNCH CRC staff and operational partners experience as we work with offenders to reduce re-offending. It was a privilege to spend time with Mrs Harvey, knowing that her ability to influence and enhance public awareness of the issues our offenders face is a part of the role she takes very seriously. The enthusiasm and interest she brought to our time together was appreciated by me, CRC colleagues and representatives who joined our discussion from some of BeNCH’s operational partners, namely User Voice, HACRO and St Mungos."
Many thanks to Ali, her team and the service users for such an informative day.