Paying back to society

Hundreds of ‘community payback’ projects benefitting Scottish communities.

Unpaid work projects aimed at reducing reoffending are welcomed by communities across Scotland.

From renovating local buildings to supporting charities helping the vulnerable, unpaid work delivers tangible benefits to communities - while supporting people to address the underlying issues behind their offending.

The annual summary of local authority Community Payback Order (CPO) reports, published today, highlights the innovative ways teams across the country have undertaken unpaid work, paying back to their local communities.

Examples of work by CPO teams include:

  • Leftover bakery goods delivered to churches for distribution to the vulnerable
  • Renovating flats for young people leaving care
  • Processing and delivering logs to elderly people for winter fuel
  • Maintaining dozens of closed cemeteries
  • Refurbishing a library to become a respite space for young carers
  • Transport of donations for newly arrived refugees

The report highlights the positive responses from people who have benefited from work carried out in their community, highlighting the quality and speed of work done. Individuals released from a prison sentence of six months or less are reconvicted more than twice as often as those given a CPO.

Meanwhile feedback from those who completed unpaid work show it was demanding but rewarding, giving them a chance to learn new skills and move away from offending.

Opening the newly-refurbished Restorative Justice Centre in Bellshill today, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:

“Paying back to the community is at the heart of our approach to community justice. Visiting CPO projects first-hand – like those supported by the excellent new Bellshill CPO workshop in North Lanarkshire – shows the benefits they bring, not only to the local community but also to the people doing the unpaid work.

“The evidence clearly demonstrates short prison sentences do little to rehabilitate or reduce reoffending. On the other hand, community sentences make a big difference. They give people a chance to break the cycle of offending while ensuring they pay back for the damage their actions have caused.

“Robust community sentences, like CPOs, is crucial to our drive to make our communities safer. That is why we invested an extra £4 million in community sentences last year, with additional funding continuing in the draft Budget for this coming year to support local authorities to keep delivering tailored CPO projects, with 1.2 million hours reported over the past year. Our approach is clearly working, with reconviction rates in Scotland now at a 17 year low.”

Paul Kelly, Depute Leader of North Lanarkshire Council said:

“The refurbishment of our Community Payback workshop in Bellshill highlights our commitment to tackling some of the causes of offending and giving people the chance to learn from their mistakes and develop their skills base.

“We work with offenders on community projects and work programmes which help address underlying issues including victim awareness, anger management, alcohol and drug misuse and domestic violence. This valuable educational support helps to reduce further offending and promote good citizenship.”


The local authority Community Payback Order annual report highlights the positive responses from people in the community who have benefited from these projects, highlighting the quality and speed of the work carried out.

Click here for full report.


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