Ursula Brennan, Ministry of Justice Permanent Secretary, was warmly welcomed by Neil Moloney CEO in her first visit to BeNCH CRC since our ownership was transferred to Sodexo Justice Services.
During her visit the senior Civil Servant met managers and practice staff to learn more about the complex and demanding work we carry out. Later in the day Ursula Brennan was able to meet with our colleagues in the National Probation Service to hear from their perspective.
BeNCH staff held a round table discussion with Ursula Brennan and were able to share their insights into their professional practice and what being in a Community Rehabilitation Company means. While it was the Hertfordshire LDU staff in the meeting, Ursula Brennan was conscious of this being a window into a much larger CRC covering our four counties.
Terri Smith PSO runs our in-house Job Clubs in Stevenage. She talked about capturing the motivation our service users have in gaining employment and building on this through ensuring job ambitions are realistic and can be achieved. Terri also commented on the work carried out with women service users and the popularity of this work. Ursula Brennan was keen to hear about other interventions which are tailored for women and heard about the specific Community Payback approach which takes needs and personal circumstances into account while still ensuring excellent performance is maintained.
Our work carried out in our St Albans office with a small group of service users who are at a high risk of reoffending was talked through. Beata Kozlowska, Senior Probation Officer, explained about the “team within a team” which provides high levels of interventions to those who are likely to commit a number further crimes and how this increases further when necessary. Figures show it is clearly working although Beata Kozlowska added the real results in occur in the longer term. She paid tribute to her team and the close working partnership with other agencies.
Other colleagues also spoke of their high levels of professional commitment and skill in the work they carry out with our service users. They shared some of the challenges faced amidst the current reforms take place and yet remained highly committed to their on-going work. This included our work with the multi-agency Integrated Offender Management teams and our high quality programmes which support rehabilitation through addressing substance misuse, alcohol, problem solving skills amongst others.
A service user also took part in the meeting and he was especially welcomed. He explained how he was sentenced in Court to a Suspended Prison Sentence which includes carrying out Community Payback. While the usual requirement is to work one 7 hour day (more if unemployed) he willingly works 2 or 3 days each week in order to complete his Community Payback hours as quickly as he can. Ursula Brennan also heard the service user comment on how he does this work “….with a real sense of pride” and said how worthwhile the work was in helping his local community.
In thanking the staff group for their input, Ursula Brennan said she was impressed with the extent of our work with Education, Training & Employment and commented “the work on domestic violence is terribly impressive”. She added her thanks, on behalf of local communities, for the work we do.