Community Payback

The government has announced the hiring of more than 500 new employees to work in the Community Payback programme. The goal is to be able to allow offenders to serve an additional 3 million hours of payback each year if they are successful. The reasoning behind the recruitment, whether there is a backlog that needs to be cleared, whether there are issues with staff retention, or whether more hours of community payback are expected to be ordered by the courts, are not specified in the announcement. The relocation is expected to cost £93 million and will be primarily focused on outdoor projects.

What is meant by “community payback”?

It has been known by many names throughout history also known as “community service,” “community punishment,” or “unpaid work”. An offender may be required to complete a specified number of hours under the supervision of the probation service as part of his or her sentence if the court so orders. The minimum number of hours required to complete a sentence is 40, with a maximum of 300 hours. Those who are unemployed can complete the work as many times a week as they have time; those who are employed can complete the work during the hours that are convenient for them. Consider the BBC television series The Outlaws, but without all of the drama and intrigue!

Unpaid work as a sentencing option has been around since 1973, and the term “community payback” was coined in 2005 to raise awareness of the unpaid work requirement for those serving a community sentence. To be considered a credible punishment, the work must provide reparation to the community while also having the potential to be rehabilitative. Gaining vocational or skills-based training can be a part of the healing and rehabilitation process.

The newly created positions

According to the job description for the new positions, community payback supervisors will be in charge of small teams that will complete the required hours of work. The job entails supervising and motivating teams as they complete a variety of manual tasks such as clearing undergrowth in public areas, restoring community facilities, planting trees and flowers, graffiti removal, and litter pick-up among others. According to the job description, no prior experience or qualifications are required because “training will be provided to work effectively and safely.”

The work with charitable organisations

In addition, it was reported in October of last year that the government was in discussions with the Canal & River Trust and other “leading charities” about implementing the community payback scheme in the UK.

An innovative new partnership between the Probation Service and the Trust has been established, through which ex-offenders are cleaning towpaths along some of England and Wales’ waterways and canals. Last year, it was reported that offenders completed more than 15,000 hours of unpaid work along a stretch of the canal, according to the information available.

Local councils have collaborated with Probation on projects such as a Wiltshire programme in which offenders maintained the five park and ride facilities in the city of Salisbury. Those incarcerated in London collaborated with the charitable organisation Hands on London, which distributed coats to those in need throughout the city. In the coming months and years, it is likely that we will see an increase in the number of partnerships with charitable organisations.

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