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A Day in the Life of a Court Screening Support Worker

With our new website live, we continue our series featuring articles that focus on a ‘day in the life’ of people working in a variety of services and organisations across Ayrshire, whose dedication and efforts are key to reducing reoffending and improving outcomes for people caught up in the Justice system, their families, victims, and the community as a whole.

We would like to thank Kerry for sharing her story with us.

Barnardo's - - A Day in the Life of a Court Screening Support Worker

Barnardo’s Court Screening Service supports women from police custody until completion of their court dates. The service is for women who reside within South Ayrshire and are not subject to a statutory order. Referrals are received direct from staff within the Court Social Work Team at Ayr Sherriff Court.

The main aim of the service is to assist women in any area of their lives that they would like support with, to reduce their risk of reoffending. An important part of the role is to ensure that they attend all their Court dates and to assist them in engaging with other services.

Kerry began working with Barnardo’s Court Screening Service in August 2018, her time was spent between the Family Resource Service and Court Screening Service as well as Shine Women’s Mentoring Service.  As demand for the Court Screening Service grew, Kerry was moved to the Court Screening Service on a fulltime basis.

Prior to Barnardo’s, Kerry worked as a Senior Support Worker in a Residential Rehabilitation Centre with Addiction Services and as a Support Worker with North Ayrshire Drug and Alcohol Recovery Services.

A typical day

A typical day for me would involve supporting a woman to attend a court date. This ensures there are no barriers to attending court as transport is provided and any anxieties are reduced as they have support with them.

If there are no women calling at court, I would utilise this time to complete paperwork, undertake home visits or telephone appointments. I offer support to attend appointments, if required, or provide reminders.   My role also involves support with form filling, support to contact services, assistance with food parcels, crisis loan applications, liaising with Housing Services, support to attend groups or exploring activities within the community to reduce social isolation. I also attend joint home visits with Justice Social Work colleagues.

On the days I receive a new referral I am contacted by the Court Social Work Team who have spoken with women in custody and offered support from the Court Screening Service if they meet the criteria.  The Court Social Work Team will inform me that I may be needed for support that day, if the women is released. Same day support requirements for the day will be discussed at that point – whether that be the possibility of a homeless presentation, transport home, clothing, or food. Ongoing support needs will also be discussed.

Custody cases are processed in court every afternoon so I will be updated of the outcome when the case has been heard. If released I will then attend the Police Station and meet the women on their release and provide any support required.

Women are often provided with a mobile phone to ensure they can contact services. I will then arrange a follow up appointment to complete a risk assessment and to support them to create a plan of goals and achievable outcomes. These are reviewed regularly. Referrals to relevant services for support are made and they are aided to engage. Practical support is also provided such as benefit maximisation, form filling, registering with GP/Dentist and much more.

The issues affecting my role at the moment

The impact of the pandemic and the backlog of court dates.  Due to Covid, custody cases are now heard through video link.  Prior to Covid, I would attend Ayr Sheriff Court and support women from there on release.  Now I have to travel to Kilmarnock or Saltcoats Police Station to collect them and bring them back to South Ayrshire often meaning having to access out of hours housing support and having to wait hours for an allocation.

“The thing I enjoy most is seeing the changes the women make in their lives and the barriers they overcome”

The moment I will always remember

In this role, on my first day I was shadowing a colleague and being shown what my role would entail.  We supported a woman home from custody and when she went into her home it was in the process of being burgled! There was lots of shouting, and the woman chased the individual out her back close.  We contacted the Police and the Local Authority to report the incident and had to spend some time calming down the irate woman who had known the person robbing her home. I was certainly initiated to the role that day and left wondering if all my days would turn out like that one – I should add that they didn’t, this was most definitely a one off.

One thing I wish I had known when I started out

The geography of South Ayrshire!  Anyone who knows me will be aware my sense of direction is questionable.  I was clearly fitted with a faulty internal sat nav.  When I first started, I got a tad lost trying to navigate the local area. Three years later and I am getting better but that is mostly due to great co-pilots!

“I have witnessed many workers going above and beyond to provide the highest standard of care to women for which I have great admiration.”

What do you love most about the role?

There are so many things I love about my job, so I will have to list a few.

The thing I enjoy most is seeing the changes the women make in their lives and the barriers they overcome. When they grow in confidence, begin completing tasks on their own, when they start to believe in themselves again and recognise their worth it is inspirational.

I like how no day is ever the same and can change by the afternoon dependant on the referrals.

Connecting with my colleagues, other services, and joint working to support women is also a great part of my role. South Ayrshire has so many wonderful workers that are so passionate about what they do and the people they support. I have witnessed many workers going above and beyond to provide the highest standard of care to women for which I have great admiration. I have learned so much in this role from other professionals and appreciate the time they have taken to provide me with advice and guidance when I ask (or email).

Due to the nature of the Court Screening Service, some cases can remain open until their court dates are completed which can be up to a year.  Even if some women disengage, I will continue to try to make contact. This means they know I am always a point of contact when needed. It often takes months to build a trusting relationship with a person and the advantage of this service is it often allows for that relationship to develop.  Some women have commented that they appreciated the fact that they were not closed – they felt that they were not given up on, something that is a regular occurrence for them and affects their self-worth.   Attempting to maintain that contact enabled them to trust me and know who to turn to when in crisis rather than avoid the situation. This is a luxury when most services are time limited which can be a barrier to support.

If there was an extra hour in the day

I would like to run a writing group to help women express their feelings and have a creative space to talk about what they have produced.

I think I would also spend it doing paperwork!

If I could change anything

I would add a Court Screening Service for men. There are so many men in the community that ask their partners if they can access the Court Screening Service too.  I have also seen men being released from custody with a requirement for support on the day.

I would also like a magic wand to provide more funding for Housing, Mental Health Services, Ayrshire Rehab, more recovery villages, and an increase in benefits – that would all be much appreciated.

The list could go on, but I will stop there!

“I enjoy everything about this role, from the court environment to the professionals I work with and the women I support.”

The not so nice parts of my job

When a woman does not want to engage with support, and they continue to re-offend.  Seeing someone who has previously been doing well relapse and return to a chaotic lifestyle after a period of stability.   Being unable to find a woman who is living a chaotic lifestyle is a genuinely concerning part of my role and I find it difficult to switch off from that. Knowing I have done all I can to locate them and contacting the relevant services still does not stop me from worrying.

Where I see myself in 5 years’ time

Working within the justice setting. I have found an area in which I am passionate, where I can utilise my previous experience and knowledge as well as continuing to learn and develop new skills.  I aim to continue to provide the highest standard of care to the people I support.  I want to continue to learn from women on how best to support them.

Would I choose this path again if I could?

Yes, undoubtably! I enjoy everything about this role, from the court environment to the professionals I work with and the women I support. This role is rewarding, challenging, fast paced, and has enabled me to develop my practice and learn many new skills.

A Day in the Life of a Court Screening Support Worker