Award winning Community Payback

Steve Prestoe, Community Payback Manager

Steve Prestoe, Community Payback Manager

Steve Prestoe, Community Payback Project Manager based in Watford in Hertfordshire, talks about his teams’ work and their achievement in collecting a prestigious award in late 2014.

Steve’s Community Payback team recently scooped the Housing Heroes Award (Best Partner) from Dacorum Borough Council in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.  The award is in recognition of the high quality work carried out by Community Payback Service Users in maintaining gardens, footpaths and areas around various estates and housing association properties.  This included some sheltered housing schemes where vegetation has been cleared to make it easier for local residents to reach their wheeley bins and gardens.  They also paved some areas, making it easier for wheelchair residents to move around and the Service Users had a good understanding of how their work was benefitting local people.

Award from Dacorum Borough Council

Award from Dacorum Borough Council

Steve added “The judges were impressed by the high standard of our work and also the speed at which we could respond to new jobs.  The local people knew Community Payback were doing the work as we always wear the High-Viz jackets with this kind of work. They were generally pleased to see us doing the work, putting something back into the local communities and also remarked on the politeness of our Service Users”.

You must be proud in getting the award?

“Yes and I’ve always been a believer in these community based projects.  It was a pleasure going to the award ceremony and seeing the different agencies.  We were presented with the award by the Council’s head of housing”.

More generally Steve, what makes a good Community Payback project for you to be involved with?

An example is at the Hare Krishna temple where we work on the farm.  All of the food grown there goes through the kitchen where meals are cooked.  Every day these meals are taken to London to feed large numbers of homeless people.  The actual work done there seems to have a calming effect on everyone who works there and we’ve had some good results.  In fact we’re going to be the focus of some academic research to find out why this works so well and hopefully in 18 months we’ll have a better understanding.  At the Temple good behaviour is expected; no smoking is allowed on-site, swearing is not allowed and everyone has to be courteous.  Our service users are treated in the same way and this makes a difference to them”.

How big is your caseload?

We have about 160 to 170 service users at any one time on our caseload for Community Payback and we cover the Watford, Hemel Hempstead, Tring and Berkhamsted areas.  Each one will have been sentenced to do between 40 and 300 hours of work, if they’re unemployed we expect them to work 3 or 4 days a week.

You have rules about attendance?

Yes we do.  We issue a final warning following the first time there’s an absence for a reason we don’t accept.  If it happens again we start breach proceedings and we don’t hang around on this.

The service users, what are their histories?

There’s quite a wide range.  It includes some young adults who have left home and seem to get into trouble and it becomes part of their lifestyle.  For others it will be their first offence and many will never offend again.  We also cater for women doing Community Payback, some are very happy to join in with the work groups where our own staff supervise the work.  Alternatively some are better placed in different locations i.e helping prepare food for the homeless, or working in charity shops where our partners supervise the work for us.  Also for service users without jobs, we can refer them to our Education, Training & Employment colleagues for some extra help in getting a job.

Can you tell us about your team?

Sure, I’ve got two Probation Service Officers working with me.  They’re really good at their job.  I have six supervisors who work part time each week.  We also have a bank of agency staff to cover for any gaps as we work 7 days a week with several projects working most days of the week.

Like to know more?

If you’d like to know more about Community Payback in the Watford area, please call the Community Payback team on 01923 240144.  Alternatively email us at contactus@bench.probation.gsi.gov.uk if you’d like to know more about the work in other towns through the BeNCH area.

We are keen to hear from you if you’re interested in working for us as a Supervisor.  Supervisor posts are exempt from the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974). This means that there is a requirement to declare all convictions whether ‘spent’ or ‘unspent’.

Having a conviction does not necessarily mean that you won’t be offered a job, as we recognise the unique contribution you could make.  Consideration will be given to what offence was committed, when it was committed and any extenuating circumstances.  If you’d like to know more or if simply talking this over would help, please call our Human Resources team in Northampton on 01604 658052.

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