COMMENDEE 2017-18: Liam Mason is a probation practitioner at Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire & Rutland Community Rehabilitation Company (DLNR CRC) whose enthusiasm, empathy, and creativity has changed provision for younger offenders. He has not only championed interesting and innovative new ways to connect to this audience, he has done the extra work needed to ‘walk the talk’. His colleagues’ appreciation is further reflected in his also having won a 2017 National Probation Award.
[Summary of original nomination and supporting materials submitted to the Trust]
Initial nominator and colleague Stephen Backus calls Liam “an exceptionally positive person” who is “a powerful advocate for including cultural influences [and] more interactive exercises”, with a “zeal for innovation”.
Butler Trust Local Champion and Communication Manager Fiona Buchanan says:
“He earned the respect of his colleagues because Liam wasn’t just ‘all talk’. He was prepared to do the extra work… His daily mantra was always to think how we can make the material more engaging, particularly to the 18 – 24 year age group who may have rejected formal education in their early teens and grown up on a culture of popular TV shows.”
Fiona gives an example of Liam’s creativity: “He devised a set of story cards for the group’s participants that reflect the lives of a group of residents living as neighbours in the same street. On one side was printed the house number and on the other was a detailed history of the featured residents’ life story. After describing a low-level crime occurring in the street, each service user is encouraged to imagine and discuss how ‘their residents’ would be feeling and might react. The neighbours vary from an elderly couple, a war veteran with mental health issues to a gay couple.”
Michael* is a service user who contributed his own testimonial:
“Liam Mason is awesome. I came out of prison last November and Liam has been my officer since then. I used to over react and get violent. Liam has helped me to keep calm. He has taught me how to keep better control of myself and not lose perspective on what is happening. There have been obstacles in my way, but Liam is always helping me. It’s not just a quick appointment with him and then on your way. He is always speaking to me on the phone and checking that I am coping OK. This is the best that I have ever done.”
Liam’s current line manager and Performance Delivery Manager Kaye Knowles says Liam is “a ‘can do’ person in every sense of the word. In spite of all the recent changes we have gone through, his commitment to his work and wanting to achieve the best outcomes for his cases has been unfaltering. He is always, and I mean always, approachable, cheerful and a real team player. He will assist anyone throughout the whole building, not just his team colleagues.”
Unsurprisingly his former line manager, Alison Hunt, wants him back! “I have found Liam to be innovative in his working approach; he cares about each individual service user and strives towards their success. Liam took great pride in managing his caseload, he knew his service users well and tailored work for each of them. On a practical level he was fully on board with performance measures and adhered to them, he is a credit to the DLNR and I wish he was back in my team.”
DNLR CRC’s CEO Chris Blackwell, says:
“Liam happily admits that he has found ‘his calling’ in working for probation. He truly relishes the challenges that are a daily element of our work. He inspires his other colleagues because Liam seeks every opportunity to innovate and be part of the change process.”
Liam himself is eloquent about his vocation: “As probation staff we challenge and motivate people in the Criminal Justice System to achieve a better way of living. Our progress is frequently measured in small steps. It’s often about helping a service user to see their hidden potential; so many feel that they don’t have anything worthwhile to plan for.”
Liam notes the importance of innovating to effect change: “I know we can make a difference but we are not miracle workers. We need the right ‘tools’ for the job.” He points out that “our vision has to be a holistic one. We also need to teach them life skills as well. How to budget, how to shop and cook: in essence, how to look after themselves and feel proud of what they have achieved.”
As Liam says, ‘change creates new opportunities’ – and he has helped deliver exactly that.
* Name changed