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A Day in the Life of a Desistance Officer

With our new website live, we will 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 Siobhonn for sharing her story with us.

North Ayrshire H&SCP - A Day in the Life of a Desistance Officer
East Ayrshire H&SCP - A Day in the Life of a Desistance Officer
South Ayrshire H&SCP - A Day in the Life of a Desistance Officer
The role

The Desistance Officer is a new role established in September 2021 with temporary funding and is based within the Partnership Delivery Team.   The Partnership Delivery Team exists within the Ayrshire Justice Services Partnership structure to carry out specialist roles and functions where economy of scale is better served providing a pan-Ayrshire service rather than in individual localities.

The role definition is to promote social inclusion and integration of Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs) into the community in North, South and East Ayrshire.  This involves working directly with men or women on a one-to-one basis and supporting them to identify and take part in activities in their community.

How I got where I am

Siobhonn started her working career in the Printing Industry, after 2 factory closures she decided it was time to change career!   From the age of 16, Siobhonn had been undertaking Youth Work with a couple of the local councils, working across Ayrshire.   Siobhonn got a job with a local charity as a Youth Development Officer working in a deprived area of North Ayrshire and was responsible for delivering group work and detached street work.

From there Siobhonn went to work as a mentor on a Forestry Project helping volunteers with a variety of issues including gaining employment.  This provided her with the knowledge and experience to apply for a job within the third sector, which she was successful in getting and was co-located within the South Ayrshire Justice Team.

Siobhonn worked there for 6 years as an Employment Advisor, working with people involved in the justice system who were subject to Community Payback Orders, Structured Deferred Sentence, or on Licence and subject to throughcare.

Siobhonn worked with a wide variety of people and attended joint home visits with Justice Social Work colleagues, attending, and providing input at review and Child Protection meetings and supporting people into volunteering or employment opportunities.

In her role as Employment Advisor, Siobhonn gained a lot of experience whilst co-located in within the Justice Social Work Office, which she enjoyed and this also increased her knowledge in this area.  Unfortunately, due to temporary funding this employment came to an end, however Siobhonn was successful in securing further work in the Employability field.   After a period, the opportunity to apply for the Desistence Officer’s post presented itself and Siobhonn knew her heart lay within Justice Services, so using her existing knowledge she applied, interviewed for the post and was successful.

“I love the variety this role offers and being able to see the positive change in people”

A typical day

There is no typical day!

There are days when I can be out of the office attending three-way meetings with Case Managers to introduce people to the service.  I could also be attending appointments with people to complete a care plan for them which consists of questions based on the Good Lives Model working through their life goals and making plans for the weeks ahead based on their needs.

There are other days when I can be visiting a local landmark whilst out a walk with someone, stopping off for a coffee and planning the next outing.   Due to RSO restrictions (which are different from one person to another) it can sometimes be hard to find activities or groups for people to attend and take part in, but I thankfully have not been stuck yet.

Difficulties or issues that can affect my work

Working with RSOs there will always be some difficulties.    There is always a question around whether the person will cancel their appointment as they do not want to leave the house that day, or if they do leave the house, will they be recognised.

Appointments must be well thought out and planned to keep myself safe, the person safe and the local community safe.  We have a system of recording where we are going and how long we plan to be so that the Team Manager can check if we are not back when we say we are and make contact if required.

Whilst out in the local area engaging people with local activities or visiting landmarks, I have never experienced any negativity, but I am fully trained and confident on how to approach this.

“It has given people the opportunity to increase their confidence and connect them with their local communities”

The moment I’ll always remember

Over the years there are lots of moments to remember. For some of the people I support, just leaving the house is a big thing for them.   I had been working with someone towards the end of last year who hadn’t been out of the house (unless with a Social Worker) and I was able to support them to go to a shopping centre where they were able to buy some new clothes and do some Christmas shopping as well as go to the supermarket for their own food.  They were so excited to be able to pick their own things and buy new clothes – these are things that most people take for granted!

What I love about my job

I know everyone says it, but no two days are the same.  I love the variety this role offers and being able to see the positive change in people.  Although I am a lone worker on the project, I am part of a great team and find there is always someone there if you need them.

If there was an extra hour in the day

Just one extra hour? 😊  One hour is not enough.

I would like to be able to take on more referrals, however I have limited capacity working on my own on a pan-Ayrshire basis.   I must ensure my time and caseload is well managed to be able to offer the best service to people I am supporting.

“I enjoy the work and like seeing a positive change in people who have been able to move on with their lives”

If I could change anything

I would want to secure longer term funding to be able to plan ahead for the future and invest in the service.

Whilst this would mean I would remain in a job; it would ensure we could continue to develop the service which has proved to be beneficial for the people who have been referred so far.   It has given people the opportunity to increase their confidence and connect them with their local communities.

Where I see myself in five years

Hopefully still working within the justice setting as I enjoy the work and like seeing a positive change in people who have been able to move on with their lives.

I always say “I hope I never see you again” – not in a bad way, I just I hope I do not see them involved in the justice system again!

Would I choose this path again if I could?

Definitely! The path I have been on has given me life experience and experience of the local community that has been beneficial to my roles in employability and justice.

To anyone considering a career in a justice setting, I would say go for it! If you enjoy working with people, to assist and empower them to make change in their lives it’s the career for you!

A Day in the Life of a Desistance Officer