Community Payback Order: summary of local authority annual reports 2015-2016

Document summarising Scottish local authority annual reports on the fifth year of operation of the Community Payback Order.

3. Unpaid Work Or Other Activity Requirement

9. Continuing the trend of previous years, the 'unpaid work or other activity' requirement was the most commonly imposed of the nine requirements which are available to the court.

10. This requirement can be imposed for any period between 20 and 300 hours, with those falling between 20 and 100 hours referred to as 'Level 1' and those between 101 and 300 hours as 'Level 2' requirements.

3.1 Unpaid work

11. In relation to the 'unpaid work' aspect of this requirement, local authorities select the projects on a number of criteria, including:

  • projects which would make the best use of the skills of the Unpaid Work Supervisors;
  • whether the work would compete with the local labour market, which would be inappropriate; and
  • where relevant, whether the potential recipients of the unpaid work would be in a position to meet or contribute towards the cost of materials.

12. Local authorities aim for a mix of indoor and outdoor work projects in order to take advantage of the seasons and to minimise disruption of the scheme in adverse weather conditions.

13. Also, wherever possible, unpaid work projects are identified which would provide the individuals on CPOs with opportunities to maximise their learning and development of new skills whilst still paying back to their local community. Following sentencing, Criminal Justice Social Work ( CJSW) staff meet with the individual to discuss any particular skills which they may have, as well as other factors which require consideration such as health, employment or caring responsibilities. Where possible, CJSW staff try to ensure that individuals undertake unpaid work in the communities which have been impacted as a result of their offending.

14. A robust risk assessment is carried out before an individual is cleared to do unpaid work in the community, which can include consultation with any organisations or groups that are involved in the work being undertaken. Individuals are supervised during all unpaid work activity.

3.2 Examples of projects

15. The number of unpaid work placements carried out by individuals on CPOs continues to be wide-ranging, as evidenced by the variety of projects outlined in the local authority annual reports. These projects allow for both group work and individual placements.

16. Continuing the focus of recent years, a number of local authorities reported that they have worked hard to increase the visibility of their unpaid work projects so that the public can see the work that is being done under CPOs and the benefits that this has brought to their communities. This included communicating the benefits of unpaid work through social media, videos on councils' websites and even word of mouth. Further examples of consultation activity are provided at Section 3.4.1 below.

3.2.1 Groupwork placements

17. Examples of the type of unpaid work projects that were commonly carried out within a group work setting during 2015/16 are provided below. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, and more detailed information of the types of projects undertaken by unpaid work teams can be obtained directly from local authorities (links are provided at Section 7).

  • Gardening and landscaping - including ground clearance, upkeep and maintenance work in private gardens for elderly or disabled residents, as well as community spaces such as public parks;
  • Interior and exterior refurbishment or redecoration - including community facilities such as scout halls, schools, day centres, museums, care homes and youth clubs and public play parks;
  • Work to support charities, community centres and churches - including collection, delivery and sorting of donations for charity shops and foodbanks, repairs and maintenance and preparation for community events;
  • Work assisting the elderly or disabled - including carrying out home removals and repairs, erecting fencing, uplifting furniture and delivery of shopping;
  • Environmental work - including beach and path cleaning, litter collection, clearing of bottle banks, removal of fly-tipping or cleaning of graffiti and chewing gum, tree planting, cleaning of waterways and riverbanks and removal of invasive plant species;
  • Crafts completed within the local authority workshop - including the creation of planters, street furniture, bird boxes and general joinery, as well as small craft items which can be sold and proceeds donated to charity;
  • Recycling and restoration - including schemes to restore and donate bicycles, the restoration of street/community furniture and gravestones, painting of railings and the restoration and upkeep of war memorials; and
  • Winter resilience - including gritting of pathways, snow clearing, delivery of logs and kindling plus erection of log stores for remote, elderly residents, support for victims of flooding, planting of trees on riverbanks for flood prevention and filling of sandbags.

18. A small number of local authorities highlighted the need for flexibility in the provision of unpaid work, both in relation to the days and times when unpaid work can be undertaken, and also being flexible enough to accommodate the changing patterns of availability of individuals because of employment or training needs.

3.2.2 Individual placements

19. In addition to offering placements as part of a group, local authorities also offer individual placements which can be beneficial for people who are unable to attend full-day groups due to health or employment reasons. Individual placements can also be used to improve a person's employment prospects by allowing them to build on specific skills which they may already have. These can also provide the individual with a more direct way to payback to their local community, with the placements being in their own community, where possible.

20. Some local authorities also found that many of those who completed their unpaid work on individual placements stayed on as volunteers after they had completed their hours. One local authority advised that individuals on CPOs working alongside people who were not on statutory orders could bring positive outcomes by helping to increase their self-esteem and self-confidence, and establish pro-social links with the community.

21. Examples of individual placements carried out during 2015/16 are provided below. As with the group work placements, this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, and more detailed information can be obtained direct from local authorities (links are provided at Section 7).

  • local charity shops;
  • woodland charities;
  • charities supporting veterans;
  • furniture recycling projects;
  • community food growing projects;
  • lunch clubs for older people;
  • care homes; and
  • animal and wildlife sanctuaries.

3.3 Impact of unpaid work projects

22. In their annual reports, local authorities provided quotes from people on CPOs, as well as beneficiaries of unpaid work, regarding the impact that the work had on them and/or their community.

23. The majority of local authorities reported very positive feedback from beneficiaries, both at an individual and organisational level. Many expressed their gratitude for the quality of work being carried out and the short timescale it was completed in. The respect shown to them by the people on CPOs and their supervisors received particular praise.

24. While local authorities seek feedback from beneficiaries of unpaid work upon completion of the project, in many instances they also receive unsolicited feedback from members of the community. The following is a small sample:

"This project involved a large amount of heavy manual labour. It helped make an area accessible for adults with disabilities. This project was long overdue and it was only completed and accomplished thanks to the community payback team."

"What an amazing difference you and your team make to vulnerable people's lives. Thank you for all of your help and kindness."

"I thought you would tell me that it was too big a job to be carried out (it was an awful mess). Instead you said 'no problem, we can do this!'. I was stunned by the reaction."

"Many thanks for your help with my garden at the end of the year, as I am a wheelchair user I can now enjoy the summer at my back door and it makes me very happy."

"I duly received my log store and felt compelled to send all of you in your marvellous, generous organisation a Great Big Thank You! This is quite easily the biggest and best bargain I have ever received in my life - and I am 89 now! I didn't really have anywhere to store my logs so all I could do was stack them against the wall of my house and cover them with a bit of plastic sheet, but this lovely log store is just sublime. It fits into a corner of my house next to my back door and looks great, and keeps all of my logs bone dry! Thanks for this wonderful gift - for it is almost a gift - you are all so kind."

25. In addition to seeking feedback from beneficiaries, CJSW staff also ask the individuals on CPOs for their views on the impact that carrying out unpaid work in their community has had on them. In the main, individuals are given the opportunity to do this by completing an exit questionnaire at the end of their CPO, although feedback is sought and recorded by CJSW staff throughout the duration of the CPO. The service can then use this information to inform the ongoing development and delivery of CPOs.

26. A high proportion of individuals completing CPOs advised that while they found the experience demanding it was also rewarding because it gave them the chance to learn ways of changing their behaviour and move away from offending. Some individuals advised that simply having structure to their days helped them to avoid reoffending. There was also evidence of individuals developing skills while on unpaid work which increased their likelihood of gaining employment.

27. Many specifically praised their Unpaid Work Supervisor or Criminal Justice Social Worker for how fairly and respectfully they were treated despite the circumstances of their attendance. The following is a small sample:

"Throughout my placement, I found my supervisor to be non-judgmental, fair and firm yet prepared to rebuke if or when necessary."

" [The best parts of unpaid work were] helping me to feel I was at least part atoning for the crime I committed. Simply the feel-good factor that comes inherently from a job well done. Most of all, the realisation that you certainly don't have to commit a crime in order to go out and do some good, in whatever form, for the benefit of someone, or your community. Do it anyway."

"All the supervisors are skilled at dealing with a difficult client group, building relationships that support and motivate clients as far as possible."

"I found it inconvenient fitting my order in when working full-time, but knew it was my own doing."

"Hope to make this experience my first and last, proving that it has helped me learn not only my mistakes but, I feel that I have taken a feeling of change into my life by reflecting on it."

3.4 Local Authority consultation on unpaid work

28. Under the 1995 Act, local authorities are required to consult specific people and organisations on the types of unpaid work that individuals on CPOs should undertake in their area. The regulations made under the Act provide a list of those who must be consulted, although it is not intended to be exhaustive and local authorities are free to consult more widely. However, at a minimum, they must consult on an annual basis:

  • The Chief Constable (in practice the local Police Commander) for the area of the local authority;
  • the Sheriff Principal within whose jurisdiction the local authority area lies;
  • organisations representative of victims of crime;
  • voluntary organisations within the local authority's area;
  • one or more community council within the local authority's area;
  • one or more Community Planning Partnership within their area; and
  • one or more Community Safety Partnership within their area.

3.4.1 Additional consultation activity

29. As reported in previous years, the majority of the local authorities consulted far more widely than the organisations and individuals listed above. Some examples of the methods used by local authorities to consult, or otherwise to interact with the community about CPOs, are listed below:

  • a form or interactive facility on the local authority's website where the local community can suggest or request assistance with unpaid work projects;
  • marketing through the use of social media or local press;
  • engagement with local community groups on areas to target with unpaid work;
  • publication and distribution of literature such as booklets or pamphlets on CPOs to highlight the service to the community;
  • erection of plaques at successfully completed project sites, or A-frames at sites where work is ongoing, to inform the public that work was/is being undertaken by CPO scheme;
  • use of digital media, such as plasma screens, in public spaces displaying contact details for service, or examples of completed projects;
  • feedback from and discussions with those on CPOs; and
  • encouraging word of mouth.

30. There was acknowledgement by some local authorities that consultation helped their service by increasing the visibility of unpaid work, and therefore expanding community awareness of the service, which could then lead to more requests being received. One local authority reported that they had been proactive in encouraging beneficiaries of unpaid work to acknowledge the contribution of the service in any publicity that the project generated.

31. A couple of local authorities advised that they would have a focus on extending and increasing the level of consultation undertaken as a central part of the development of their Community Justice Outcomes Improvement Plans, in preparation for the introduction of the new model for community justice in 2017. [2]

32. Some local authorities reported that consultation with organisations had led to direct referrals for unpaid work being received. In one instance, discussions between police and the unpaid work team about community safety resulted in the team receiving direct referrals from the police for unpaid work which had a specific community safety remit attached. For example, clearing shrubbery from poorly lit areas that were subject to anti-social behaviour and therefore were avoided by members of the public. A couple of local authorities also reported engagement with Victim Support Scotland, and other agencies supporting victims, around referrals for unpaid work to assist with some practical issues for victims, such as assisting with accommodation moves or erecting fencing and cutting back foliage to increase security for a victim of domestic abuse or stalking

33. As reported last year, one local authority found it difficult to consult with every group they would have liked, reiterating that there were no forums in their area to allow for effective liaison or consultation with organisations that represented the commercial or retail sectors. In addition, it reported that it continued to find an absence of any structure to consult with groups representative of ethnic minorities or religious, inter-faith or belief groups, which meant that opportunities to consult with these demographics was limited.

3.5 Other activity

34. While the unpaid work or other activity requirement is primarily used to deliver unpaid work, the 1995 Act allows a proportion of the requirement to be used to undertake 'other activity' as well. This aspect of the requirement tasks the individual with developing their educational, vocational or interpersonal skills in order to support them to stop further offending. It is for their Criminal Justice Social Worker to determine the individual's suitability for other activity and the type of activity to be undertaken.

35. Other activity must not exceed 30 hours, or 30% of the number of unpaid work hours specified in the requirement, whichever is lower. If the Criminal Justice Social Worker determines that other activity is not appropriate, the requirement will consist solely of unpaid work.

3.5.1 Uptake of other activity

36. Around a fifth of local authorities reported that uptake of activity remained low, with individuals preferring to undertake solely unpaid work because they considered that this would allow them to complete their specified hours more quickly rather than having to engage with other services. Other reasons included that the individual was already in employment, they had caring responsibilities or they felt that there was insufficient choice of other activity available.

37. A small number of local authorities reported that they had recognised that further development of the 'other activity' options was required in order to ensure that sufficient opportunities were available. Some were already in the process of reviewing the type and range of options that they were able to offer with a view to encouraging greater use in the coming year. One local authority hoped that the inclusion of 'the use of other activities' in CPOs as an indicator in the Scottish Government's Community Justice: Outcomes, Performance and Improvement Framework would act as a catalyst to stimulate further development in this area.

38. The areas which reported an increase in the uptake of other activity advised that this was due to an increased effort on their part to seek out opportunities with delivery partners.

3.5.2 Delivery of other activity

39. As with previous years, local authorities reported that 'other activity' was most often used to improve an individual's employability skills, with those who are more equipped to enter work being given the opportunity to attend courses to learn IT skills to complete CVs and application forms. For those who are not quite so ready, this involves one-to-one support to develop employability skills which is generally provided through partner agencies.

40. Examples of other activity provided by local authorities included:

  • Employability - help with CV writing and job applications, interview support, training courses, assistance to gain Construction Skills Certification Scheme card, and work-based support;
  • Education - literacy and numeracy support, adult learning, engagement with local colleges, and development of IT skills;
  • Health and Wellbeing - referrals to drug and alcohol support services, healthy eating, fire safety training, first aid training, dental health, health checks and physical activity;
  • Interpersonal Skills - anger management, self-confidence training, parenting and childcare classes, problem-solving skills, communication skills, social awareness, mentoring support, self-management, crisis awareness and budgeting; and
  • Wider Issues - victim empathy and awareness, citizenship courses, women's group/services, road traffic awareness training, financial/debt management, support with housing, support with veteran issues, and desistance work.


Email: Andrew Corrigan

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