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Jill Richardson: Community Payback Co-ordinator

Managing the Unpaid Work Requirements ordered by the courts

Community Payback Co-ordinator: managing the Unpaid Work Requirements ordered by the courts“I’m a co-ordinator, a communicator, a delegator, organiser, overseer, and sometimes I feel like a housemother as well,” says Jill Richardson, one of the Essex CRC Community Payback Co-ordinators who works from our office in Chelmsford. “You need a mix of motivational skills and straight talking to ensure people sent to us by the courts not only comply with the court order, but give of their best.”

Jill knows her job inside-out, with ten years in Suffolk under her belt before the fifteen years she’s worked here in Essex. She knows every element of the work. Her enjoyment of it is evident.

From her base in mid-Essex, Jill manages six supervisors who go on-site with groups of offenders every week. “There are also many Individual Placements which have to be arranged and supervised,” she says. “We make sure that the job is appropriate to each offender, and that the organisation they’re working for know what’s expected and let us know immediately if there are any failures to turn up. I go to each of these venues regularly to check up on the work and the worker. In fact I’m always out there, making sure we’re doing a good job, be it with groups or individually.”

The work done for communities in Essex is extensive and varied. “If people look at the last Community Payback Annual Report on our website they will be surprised at the variety, as well as the value of the work we do for free,” says Jill. “We’re good at what we do here in Essex, and the number of ‘thank-you’ letters we receive is gratifying. Many of them are heartfelt and genuinely moving.”

Community Payback, as the Unpaid Work hours ordered by the court are now called, has expanded and developed over the years. Labour is free, and the recipients of the work provide the materials – paint, glue, whatever the job needs.

Not only do people perform the hours demanded, but where necessary will be referred for advice about their lack of literacy or numeracy, and will spend some of the hours in ‘Education Training and Employment’ sessions. “My intention is that people will leave us with a positive approach to their future. I’ll tell them ‘Come and do ETE with us. You’ll never get that chance again. And they do. Anything that increases their employability has got to be a major advantage for the rest of us in preventing further crime.”

Jill’s days are full, and varied. “I deal with the incoming requests for workers, assess the jobs people want us to do, risk-assess them, and make all the arrangements. We need to get everything right first time. I’m also looking for feedback from our current recipients to make sure all is well and we’re giving each agency the right people.

“One minute I may be checking on the road-worthiness of the Community Payback vans, and the next organising presentations to agencies and councils. A key imperative is to make sure that the whole county is covered every day – wherever the job may be. So our supervisors based in Mid-Essex will combine with the others in our major offices to fill in where there might be a gap. We’re like a jigsaw – slotting the pieces in each day. No pressure – it’s amazing what you can pull out of the bag when you need to. My supervisors will do extra work when necessary on their days off: either to fill in a gap or they’ll hear of a churchyard needing sprucing up for a wedding and take a group over there. And I always phone my supervisors regularly, even if I’m not at work myself.”

As for the offenders: “You work the person, not the offence, while always being aware of it,” says Jill. “My watchwords are Patience, Tolerance, Respect and Value. I make sure that offenders are thanked for their work at the end of each day. We are setting examples all the time. Equally, those who haven’t put in enough work get taken aside and dealt with.”

Jill looks back on her successes with great pride. “We’ve always got people who are coming good, on the route to a more organised, offence-free life. And some of them help us out later on: Trudy, who organises a charity shop, was herself in trouble some years ago. She now takes on some of our people – and has for the last five years. She doesn’t give them an easy ride, either. She says ‘I came through a system and so will they.’

“We had someone recently who was a serious alcoholic, doing his Community Payback hours with a worker at Age UK, who helped in persuading the offender to get professional assistance. We sequenced his Unpaid Work with these appointments. After the coaching he got at Age UK, he moved on to work with a group at another of our worksites. He’s not only learned about gardening, but importantly how to deal with people. He has completed his court order now, and aims to set up as a gardener.”

“The thrill for me is when I see great pieces of work done for the community by people who have probably not been thanked for much in their lives before. And the ownership they have of their projects – some will come back after they’ve completed their order, just to make sure the job is completed.”

For more about Community Payback in Essex, click HERE