Richard Grant is a Probation Officer in Northampton and talks about his career, his job and how someone believed in him as a teenager.
When Probation Officer Richard Grant was studying for his A’ Levels, he never realised the long lasting impact his tutor would have on him. It was Miss Ranson who unexpectedly knocked on his door one Christmas Eve to make sure Richard was working hard to hand in his assignment on time at the start of the next term. She had recognised his potential arguably more than Richard himself, and she wanted him to go to University.
It is now, many years later, that Richard reflects on those early years as a young person and recognises how easy he could have taken a different path in life. Instead he is clear about his motives as a qualified Probation Officer, rooted in the profound influence of Miss Ranson.
Richard began his Probation career involved in Community Payback and then becoming a mentor in a Probation Approved Premises, whose residents were often high-risk and newly released from prison. This in turn led to him taking a Trainee Probation Officer position before qualifying. These early days shaped his approach and his love of the job; spending time with people.
In delving further into his approach, Richard draws on his own life experience for the job and also values working with his fellow team members. There is a sense of his cases being “not only my case” as it is common practice to discuss cases with colleagues. They discuss cases with each other, seek advice and the views of others in how to deal with the challenges some cases will bring.
A young man called Joe
An example of Richard’s work was a young man called Joe, a Prolific and Priority Offender (PPO). He was regularly in trouble and despondent about never having a job, or even much chance of getting one. Together they worked on his CV and went with each other to ask in shops about any job vacancies. After many set-backs and disappointments, eventually a department store offered him an interview and with Richard’s support he accessed a DWP grant to buy some clothes so he could look smart in the interview.
As Richard had faith in Joe, he arranged for the money to be handed directly to Joe himself who went shopping and (thankfully) spent it wisely. He got almost everything he needed but he still needed a belt. One of Richard’s colleagues heard about this and without any hesitation, stood up, took off his own belt and gave it to Joe.
Joe got the job. He knew Richard had shown some faith in him, he knew one of Richard’s colleagues had given him his own belt and he knew about the belief, time and energy which Richard had invested in him to move him forward in his life.
Your job sounds great, there must be some frustrations?
“Like any job” Richard explains “there are some frustrations”.
“I want to be here, I need to be here” and went onto explain the focus of his job is the time he can spend with each of his cases (Service Users). Although Richard says he’s pretty good at his own administration which includes updating the IT system, completing risk assessments and other administrative work, he values the time he spends with people. He says “we can easily forget, we can have a powerful effect on Service Users which we don’t always realise”.
He sees his job as one which can influence and change people’s lives. It goes further than simply the Service User he’s working with. Quite rightly he knows that offending behaviour is common in some families, between generations, and how if he can positively influence one person, he can influence the whole family. This is done, in basic terms, by recognising the potential in people and supporting them in making steps to achieve their full potential.
And if you had a magic wand?
Richard knows all too well the effect prison can have on people. This is especially difficult without the right support in place for people when they are released. The magic wand? Everyone getting released from prison needs a job and somewhere to live. If newly-released prisoners don’t have a skill, society needs to be supporting those people in learning a trade.
And the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme?
The current Transforming Rehabilitation Programme has created a new National Probation Service and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies, of which BeNCH CRC is one. Richard was originally assigned to the NPS because of the nature of his work and successfully appealed against this decision.
Richard was emphatic in saying “I want to do this job, I need to do this job”. He knows how he works best now he has more cases and opportunities for more one-to-one engagement with his Service Users. In conversation, he paused, looked towards the window and reflected on the belief Miss Ranson had shown in him as a teenager. It is clear, she did have a profound effect on him. Now Richard as a qualified Probation Officer knows exactly the kind of influence he can have on others.