Community Payback is a scheme run by the National Probation Service, which enables the Unpaid Work done by offenders in Essex to receive public recognition, and allows the public to contribute ideas as to which work projects are undertaken. Offenders in Essex were sentencedby the courts to well over 200,000 hours of Unpaid Work in the last year .

It is critical that these hours are used effectively both as a punishment, and to help rehabilitate offenders. It is also critical that the public recognises the value of the work undertaken by offenders in their communities.  Unpaid Work is the new name given to the community sentence many people recognise as Community Service.

Community Service was first introduced in the 1970s but has come a long way since then. However, the key components are still the same. Offenders are required to give up their free time to undertake Unpaid Work within their local communities to pay back for the crimes they have committed. In most cases this equates to a day’s work once a week.

What work do they do ?
Over the years staff working in the Unpaid Work Team have developed a wide range of projects and placements to meet a range of need. These include projects undertaken by groups [usually 6-8 offenders] or individual placements

Hard work is key feature in this particular court sentence. However, all projects aim to use the opportunities the work provides to challenge attitudes, set good examples of the right behaviour, and where appropriate, teach new skills.

A recent study shows that 55% of the offenders under the supervision of the Probation Service have employment, training or education needs. This increases to over 80% for repeat offenders who commit the most crime. Unpaid Work presents an ideal opportunity to use the project or task being completed as the framework to teach new skills and is an effective way to enhance the employability prospects of unemployed offenders.

An example of this is the charity work we have the young offenders doing for old people in their local areas. Normally we have them do over-sixties fitness classes where they jog along and do some stretching routines with the old people in the park. The classes are done to templates that are designed by Discovery trained personal trainers especially for elderly populations.

An example of this is the work done in the Witham Workshop, where garden furniture and other items are produced to an extremely high standard. A young man had been sentenced to a good number of hours’ Unpaid Work as a result of various offences. Although he had had a job in a kitchen, he was not going to return to it. In the workshop he took the first steps towards a new career. He learned the necessity for patient, accurate working, and accumulated some of the woodworking skills which led him on to taking National Vocational Qualifications. He has every prospect of obtaining a good job with his newfound skills.

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