Offenders to Work on Local Projects

Three areas to be spruced up under  Community Payback scheme

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Residents have nominated three local areas to receive a makeover as part of the Government's Community Payback scheme.

Under the scheme, offenders such as vandals, thieves, graffiti-taggers and drink drivers will be carrying out improvement work at the Wormholt Estate, Wormwood Scrubs and Ravenscourt Park as part of their Unpaid Work sentences.

The work is likely to involve tasks such as trimming overgrown bushes, cleaning up graffiti and picking up litter. One group of offenders have just completed their first project: a stag beetle loggery at Ravenscourt Park Nature Conservation Area. Offenders have also been clearing up the flower beds in Hammersmith Park.

London Chief Probation Officer Paul Wilson said: “I am pleased that we have been able to carry out this work. It is important that the work offenders do reflects what local people want.”

The Council runs the scheme in association with the Probation Service and residents can still have a say on the type of work they would like to see offenders do.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s Cabinet Member for Crime & Street Scene, Cllr Greg Smith said: “The thoughtless criminals who have taken something out of society through their reckless behaviour are now being made to put something back. This punishment gives residents the power to focus the criminal’s efforts on the sites that matter most to them.”

However, a Government initiative to make offenders wear high visibility vests with the words “Community Payback” on them has been controversial. The probation officers' union, Napo, says the vests, which were introduced in December 2008, have resulted in incidents of abuse, threats and taunting from members of the public.

They say organisations which offer placements for offenders have become very wary of promoting and using the Community Payback vests, saying the unpaid work was punishment in itself and that the addition of vests was humiliating and demeaning. According to Napo, about a third of placements involve working in charity shops and organisers there have said the wearing of vests would deter members of the public and affect their takings.

Harry Fletcher, Assistant General Secretary of Napo, said: “There is absolutely no evidence that the wearing of vests has any impact whatsoever on crime. Indeed the early trends suggest that more offences will be committed as a consequence of the jackets being worn. It is already time for the government to review this unnecessary policy.”

According to the National Probation Service, the aim of Community Payback is to make the unpaid work performed by offenders more visible and more representative of a community's needs.

Some five million hours of unpaid work are carried out every year in England and Wales, with projects always involving activities that would not otherwise be carried out. These projects include graffiti removal, redecorating community centres and environmental work.

As well as carrying out work, offenders acquire skills which are useful in the job market.

If you have a project that offenders could work on please email payback@london.probation.gsi.gov.uk

26 June 2009