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Cunninghame House, Irvine, KA12 8EE

North Ayrshire Justice Services

My community service journal

Community service was replaced by Community Payback Orders on 1st February 2011.  However, some people still refer to unpaid work as ‘community service’.

North Ayrshire Justice Services Unpaid Work Team are responsible for the delivery of unpaid work across North Ayrshire and operate from their office and workshop facility in Stevenston.

Following completion of their unpaid work, one of the service users wrote a journal on their experience and has given permission for us to share some extracts from this.  Due to potential privacy intrusion, we are unable to share the handwritten note.

Towards the end of 2022 the service user received 150 hours unpaid work and on commencement was placed within a squad, working with a supervisor on different tasks in the local community such as litter picking, hedge trimming, path widening where elderly residents reside and a small amount of gardening.

During this time, the service user undertook an Art project with the supervisor, who is an artist and delivers therapeutic work with service users, such as photography, drawing, creative art, stone masonry, and painting. The supervisor suggested the completed artwork created should be put forward to the Koestler Awards alongside a few other projects that other service users had completed.

Staff in the unpaid work team put forward the projects for the awards as they have previously had service users gain merit awards for the work they have made / created and are currently waiting on notification of the UK Awards results.  The Koestler Awards for arts in criminal justice started in 1962. Each year over 3,500 people in custody and in the community share their creative work by taking part. The Koestler Awards provide feedback and encouragement to entrants of all abilities in visual art, design, writing and music.

Tracy Nimmo, Team Manager said, “I found it heart-warming that they gained so much from their time at unpaid work”.

You can read some extracts from the handwritten journal below.

I attended my first community service meeting, which explained how the system works through watching a video.

Covid was still about and thankfully masks were used inside so no one could see me biting my lips with fear on how I was going to cope with some of the activities in the video.

Trying hard not to get emotional when speaking with staff about how I couldn’t do some of the tasks due to my age and health issues.

My first day, arriving with the attitude I would do my best.  I walked through the door with some trepidation but found the staff very caring and friendly ensuring I was ready to start on my journey.

I was introduced to a staff member who became my mentor.   They explained their background in the arts and how it helps to channel positive thinking into your life. 

The first few hours we went out delivering and picking up equipment at different locations.  After lunch my mentor was assisting other people with some woodwork, and I started writing my life story.   It wasn’t long until my first day was over.

The next months during my time at community service I found a lot about myself while speaking to other people in our group.   I started working on my project by going back to my childhood and how happy and carefree the days were although we didn’t have a lot, we were always clean and never hungry.

I worked hard all my life and had lots of holidays with family and friends.   My life was so colourful until I gave up my work to look after a family member.   My mentor explained how my life had changed from being so colourful to grey then eventually to black when I lost a family member and for the first time in my life I was all alone.

It made sense to me and helped me to understand how my addiction had started.   There was lots of tears at home as I worked on my project for the next week.  I spoke every week on how I felt my life was getting brighter again while attending addiction support and how the project was teaching me to forgive myself for the wrong things in my life during my dark times.

After finishing community service, I have become a stronger person having received the knowledge I am still a good person who just got lost when dark days were here, but with the help of family, friends and addiction support and looking at my project every day the colour is coming back into my life.


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.

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.

People who undertake unpaid work have an opportunity to repay their local communities for the harm caused by their offending.   They pay in time and hard work whilst developing new skills and confronting their offending behaviour.

Unpaid work allows the person to develop and improve their social skills making positive connections with people and communities.  The unpaid work requirement also allows for “other activity” to support people by providing educational support and guidance to enhance their employability status.