19/12/2013 - Permalink

Partnership project between council’s outdoor recreation service and West Mercia Probation Trust goes from strength to strength

Related topics: Leisure, culture and heritage

Shropshire Council’s outdoor recreation service and West Mercia Probation Trust have joined forces to work together on improving Shropshire’s outdoor recreation opportunities for local communities via Community Payback.  The project started in summer 2013 and will run for two years initially.

It reached a new milestone recently with the handing over of a new vehicle from Shropshire Council to the Trust for the project.  This vehicle will enable the project to deliver more work more efficiently all over the county.

The partnership enables Community Payback offenders to work on the rights of way network and countryside sites to improve these spaces for local communities.   The partners were also very keen to enable local Parish Path Partnerships and other community groups to specify certain works that they were either not keen to undertake, or were unable to do, to enhance their local parks, green spaces or rights of way.

Since starting in August 2013, the project has delivered over 2,000 hours of work across the county, mainly focused on Shropshire Council-owned country parks and green spaces.

West Mercia Probation Trust ensures that full-time supervisors work directly with the outdoor recreation service, and the supervisors manage offenders in carrying out practical estate-type work.  Ths work includes strimming vegetation, litter picking, path surfacing, habitat management, cleaning out ditches, planting trees, and replacing stiles and gates.

The partners are also working towards the provision of essential work-based experience to offenders to enable them to gain recognised qualifications at the end of their punishment.

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for leisure, libraries and culture, said:

“Everyone benefits from this partnership.  It is helping support the council and local communities to maintain their local countryside sites and rights of way networks, and it is also increasing the employability of offenders.”

Community Payback is a punishment which requires offenders to pay back the community for the crimes they have committed.  They have to carry out demanding unpaid work as a sentence from the courts for between 40-300 hours.  In West Mercia, over 150,000 hours of Community Payback are carried out each year.  This work helps make the communities people live in safer and better places to be. 

Offenders usually work as part of a team monitored by a supervisor.  If offenders are in full-time work or education, they must give up one day at weekends to do Community Payback.  Unemployed offenders may have to work for up to four days a week.

The outdoor recreation service had previously worked with the Probation Trust on small projects on our sites, but they recognised the potential to grow this into a regular planned programme of work. 

West Mercia Probation Trust were in turn keen to work with the service in a more planned and programmed way, and also to ensure that Community Payback work was linked to local community projects and demand.  Rehabilitation of offenders is also key, and the Trust wanted to ensure that the project provided formal learning opportunities.  Linked to this, discussions are still ongoing with a third partner, Kidderminster College, to provide accredited training as part of the project.

Pictured from left to right:

  • Les Winwood – Shropshire Council’s deputy Cabinet member for leisure, libraries and culture
  • Richard Knight – Shropshire Council’s countryside recreation team leader
  • Don McIntyre – Project Supervisor for West Mercia Probation Trust
  • Anne Proctor – Senior Probation Officer for West Mercia Probation Trust
  • Tom Currie – Assistant Chief Officer for West Mercia Probation Trust