During 2023 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 in contact with the justice system and the wider community who are impacted by justice issues.
We would like to thank the Unpaid Work Supervisors in East Ayrshire for sharing their story with us.
A Community Payback Order is a sentence imposed by the Courts. It offers Courts a disposal for use as a first response and for use with those who have defaulted on payment of a fine. A Community Payback Order is a sentence served in the community rather than in a prison.
A Community Payback Order consists of one or more of ten requirements including supervision, compensation, unpaid work or other activity, mental health treatment, drug treatment and alcohol treatment, compensation, programmes, conduct and residence. Every order must contain either an unpaid work or other activity requirement or a supervision requirement, or both.
An unpaid work requirement gives the person the opportunity to contribute in a positive way to local communities. Work undertaken as part of unpaid work does not replace paid employment but enhances work carried out by the local authority and community groups.
Justice Services in each local authority area in Ayrshire have dedicated Unpaid Work Teams, employing a selection of staff ranging from Managers, Coordinators, to Officers and Supervisors.
Unpaid Work Supervisors are responsible for overseeing a squad of people who are subject to unpaid work. There will be a maximum of five people in a squad, and this can include both men and women.
An Unpaid Work Supervisor must have the ability to work and connect with various personalities and the skills to adapt to individual needs to get the best out of people.
Everyone in the squad has the same job to do but each Supervisor has their own characteristics, skills, and personality to support different situations.
At times this may require a more supportive role focussing on welfare, a teaching role to enhance people’s skills and positive role model to challenge attitudes and beliefs or managing the dynamics of the group and encouraging pro social behaviours.
The role can’t be pigeonholed into one thing; there is a variety of traits, tasks and responsibilities that make up the role of supervisor.
Supervisors have a variety of skills (not all the same) both practical and interpersonal – some came into this role having been in supervisory positions before such as the police or prison service and some came into this role with a trade like painting and decorating.
A typical day
In the morning, we get our vans ready with the equipment we need for our job that day. We then speak to the Duty Worker, read our risk assessments, welcome service users at 8.30am and check in on their welfare that day. Due to the relationships we can build with service users, we try to identify if they are having a bad day or maybe need a wee bit more support that day. We try to create a positive environment for everyone to feel included.
With tasks already identified, it’s off to our first job. This can include foodbank collections and distributions, painting, grass cutting or gritting. We also have special projects which recently have included Newmilns Church Hall, Dalmellington Scout Hall and Kilmarnock and Auchinleck Cemeteries. We will then either have lunch on site if there are facilities or come back to the workshop to allow people time for lunch and welfare breaks.
The Duty Worker checks in with us at lunch to ensure everything has been okay and if any support for service users or staff is required.
Then it’s off to our next job in the afternoon. We try to make it as varied as we can for service users to give them a taste for different projects and aspects of work. If our job is completed earlier than scheduled, then we will do general tasks in the community such as a quick litter pick to keep on top of heavily littered areas.
At the end of the day, we ensure all is well with our service users before saying goodbye to them at 4.00pm. If anything has come up in the afternoon that we feel the Duty Worker needs to know, we would then give them a call to advise. This can include anything we overhear that could have an impact on a service users’ life. For example, someone may be at risk of becoming homeless, substance use may have increased, or they are experiencing relationship difficulties.
This is a varied role that does not always mimic a typical day and can change very quickly meaning we have to adapt and respond to situations that are not planned. For example, someone may become ill or there could be a request that comes in that we can help with immediately.
What we love about what we do
One thing we love is the sense of achievement at the end of the day; not only achieving a project outcome (before / after); improving communities and individual living conditions but supporting a service user to complete their order successfully and making a difference to people’s lives. Having that impact to change people’s attitudes, behaviours, and outlook in life. Giving people the confidence to try new things, set themselves goals and the confidence to achieve them either by doing something they thought they couldn’t, applying for college or seeking employment.
We give people hope when they were at a time in their life when they didn’t have any.
We contribute to a better society; reduce reoffending and try our best to achieve positive outcomes for them, their families, and their communities.
The sense of achievement for our service users when they successfully complete their order. The smile you can see on some service users in that, you know they probably won’t be back as they understand with confidence what needs to be done to get back on track and with a passion to improve things for themselves and their families.
Challenges affecting our work
There can at times be several challenges affecting what we do. For example, some people want to come back because for the period they are undertaking unpaid work it has given them stability, support, and social interactions. There has been someone who has listened to them, provided advice, guidance, giving positive feedback and was understanding of their needs which ultimately led to their offending behaviour. During the period of time that the person is undertaking unpaid work we support the person to minimise this feeling of loss.
On the other side, the challenge is when, for a variety of different reasons, service users can’t manage the expectations of their Community Payback Order. That is hard to see, and it is difficult when you feel you can’t help that person at the moment because it may not be the right time for them to effect change.
Sadly, benefits against wages keeps people in the cycle but we strive to give service users the motivation to change, their lifestyle and behaviours.
If we could change anything
If we could change anything it would be the follow up or throughcare after Unpaid Work. Offering people, a clear pathway into volunteering, employment, or structured activity, with follow up advice, guidance and encouragement if needed.
What would we say to someone considering this career path?
This is a career we would recommend; it is not for everyone but if you give it a chance and are a non-judgemental and an open-minded person the chances are you will love it. The opportunity to go on the bank register gives you a taste of the role.
“I migrated to East Ayrshire Council Justice Services from my own business which undertook a “Recruit with Conviction” programme where we supported people straight from prison into gainful employment, where they learned multiple new skills in both their job role and social attitudes, as a result of my own lived experience this vocation is now a passion.”
“I’d fully recommend this role to anyone that actually wants to make a difference.”