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Probation Service develops positive links with charity 30 September 2008

A PARTNERSHIP between the Probation Service and a leading Manx charity is helping to turn people’s lives around, as well as having a positive impact on the wider community.

CIRCA - the Centre for Information, Resource, Care and Assistance - has been successfully placing probationers in voluntary work for the past 15 months. The scheme has played a significant role in improving the job prospects of ex-offenders by boosting their self-esteem, confidence and work skills. It has also been a source of voluntary assistance for numerous charitable organisations and worthy causes in the Island.

The partnership, which was first established in June 2007, is viewed as positive step towards easing probationers into full-time employment and integrating them back into the community. It is not linked to any punishment, court order or community service and all work is undertaken on a purely voluntary basis. Probation officers identify suitable candidates for placements before CIRCA’s centre co-ordinators Kerry Bell and Maureen Crawford take charge to match individuals with local charities.

Probationers can make use of existing skills or learn new ones in a variety of different capacities such as administration work, caring or manual labour. They are nurtured throughout their placement, with CIRCA making regular checks to ensure everything is running smoothly and that both the volunteer and charity are happy with the arrangements.

Kerry said:

‘All our volunteers are valued and supported. We devote additional time to our probationers to ensure they are doing something in which they have an interest and which contributes positively to the organisation providing the placement. The feedback has been tremendous and clients have commented that the link between CIRCA and the Probation Service has offered them a positive way back into the community and the knowledge that society hasn’t given up on them.’

A total of 34 probationers and one young person from the Youth Justice Team have been referred to CIRCA since June 2007. From that number, three have gone on to secure paid employment as a direct result of their placements and another two have found the confidence to return to full-time education.

Kerry added:

‘We are not authority figures and encourage our clients to take responsibility for their own actions and decisions. As well as providing valuable support to the charities involved, this scheme helps probationers to develop their personal and work skills, update their CVs and obtain good references. Sometimes, difficult circumstances may have led people into crime, but they start with a clean slate at CIRCA and we do everything in our power to achieve a positive outcome.’

Minister for Home Affairs Adrian Earnshaw MHK said:

‘The success of our partnership with CIRCA cannot be overestimated in terms of both the human and financial benefits. It provides an important stepping stone towards the permanent rehabilitation of ex-offenders and their integration back into society. That in turn generates massive potential savings to the Manx community with fewer repeat offences and less time spent by police officers, probation officers, advocates, court officials and prison officers dealing with the effects of crime.’

Chief Probation Officer David Sellick added:

‘People often believe that offenders are callous and unfeeling, whereas often the reasons for them getting into trouble are more down to poor choices, bad influences and social factors. The enthusiasm and drive of the staff at CIRCA has been a central feature in giving these probationers the opportunity show they are worthwhile members of the community.’

Additional notes: CIRCA provides volunteer placements for everybody in the Manx community, not just probationers. The charity is situated on level two of the Chester Street car park and can be contacted on 613713.

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