Justice and Safety
Community Payback Orders: Fife Council’s drive to get the ‘Best’ from people on community sentences
In December 2015, Fife Council Criminal Justice Social Work team was approached by Mark Brown, the founder and author of the award-winning programme ‘The Best of You’, to take part in a pilot of the programme aimed at people serving statutory orders such as Community Payback Orders (CPO), the main community sentence in Scotland.
With 20 years of experience working in Education, Criminal Justice and Social Work in the field of Personal Development, Mark brings passion, energy and life experience to those who take part in his programmes. With a deep rooted belief that we all have within us what is needed to shape and transform our lives, Mark’s aim is to support and guide all participants to realise their own unique potential.
The programme is aimed at challenging participants to explore their behaviours and attitudes whilst learning skills and tools that would allow them to reflect on their offending behaviour and adopt strategies allowing them to create new positive behaviours and attitudes, along with cutting edge skills giving them an edge as they move towards employment or training. It is undertaken as part of the overall package of requirements that can be imposed under a CPO, which can also include unpaid work.
“Before starting the programme, I was very nervous and anxious. I kept putting barriers up and excuses not to go. I was encouraged by my Social Worker to go as I wanted to get over my depression and anxiety as well as get my motivation back, to feel human again. When I got to the group, I was nervous and tense but Mark took time to listen to me and the problems I had. The programme gave my confidence back and showed me ways to counter and help my anxiety. I finally see light instead of darkness and I feel hope and happy within myself.
What appealed to me was listening to Mark’s stories about people he and his team have helped. I found one particular speaker inspirational as to the ways they have tackled problems in their life. The course led me to undertaking a college course and improving my job prospects.”
Participants also have the opportunity to be mentored by, and work alongside people with convictions who have already completed the Best of You programme and have sustained positive outcomes. The programme is delivered over one week, concluding with a certified graduation on the Friday, with preparatory sessions the week before and follow-up sessions in the weeks after the programme.
Following the success of the pilot partnership, Fife agreed an additional 8 programmes in 2016-17, with a further 6 programmes scheduled for 2018. The programmes are delivered to people on community sentences who are supported by Fife Council’s Criminal Justice team, but it was also agreed that the programmes would receive support/input from the Council’s Employability Services as well.
“I referred [Participant A] to this programme as he needed support to manage anxiety and improve self esteem and confidence. I have noticed some improvement in his confidence, although he still needs ongoing support which he hopes to get from the Employability Team. Hopefully this will be ongoing as his Order comes to an end in a couple of months so we have been identifying other means of support. [A] has work skills and recent experience but needs support to overcome anxieties and social deficits and help him into the workplace. He has been attending unpaid work as well at a Charity Shop placement. He intends continuing there as a volunteer when his requirement ends and I think attending ‘Best of You’ assisted him in making this decision.”
“Stuff that was talked about was relevant to us, but if group had lasted longer, this would have encouraged people to open up more. Saying that, the ‘tools’ given us e.g. the Ladder of Conclusions were helpful. I felt it was useful in sorting out my thoughts about decision making, especially around if anxieties were justified or not. Having the woman from Fife Council Employability Team was helpful and I have contacted her in the hope of gaining employment in the future.”
The programme is delivered over three phases:
1) Selection and Nomination This consists of small group coaching sessions to explore and discover the needs, hopes and abilities of each participant, letting the relationship develop in a manner which allows for both respectful challenge and support throughout the programme.
These take place over three hours per day for one week to allow participants to come together as a group and take part in high impact, inspirational workshops covering Motivation, Confidence, Self-belief, Goal Setting, Leadership, Values and Beliefs. These workshops can also include inspirational guest speakers and sessions delivered by people with convictions.
3) Sustainability and follow up support
Further follow up sessions and group conversations can follow the week long programme to allow participants to continue practising skills and tools from the programme, consolidate learning, appreciate achievements, recognise skills and talents, and explore next steps.
“As soon as I walked in, I felt welcomed and put at ease by Mark. The group was supportive of each other and I felt that I wasn’t the only person who had been through certain life experiences. The talks were really upbeat which gave me enthusiasm for the future which I had been lacking. Mark made sure he became an integrated part of the group so it didn’t feel that we were being lectured. One thing that has stuck with me was that Mark said that ‘I shouldn’t let the past define who I am’ and ‘it’s up to you to write your own story’. Just prior to the group I had been successful in securing a new job and had been feeling anxious about it. The group gave me the motivation to view it differently, as an opportunity and not to place limits on myself in the future.”
Following the Best of You programme, participants are given the option to sign up with a member of staff from the employment team. Over 80% of participants sign up, with a high number moving on to work experience, training and employment. Criminal Justice Social Work staff have also reported higher levels of engagement, higher levels of self-respect, self-belief and confidence, as well as a reduction in offending behaviour, post-programme.
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