AWARD WINNERS 2013-14: Melva, from Yorkshire & Humberside Circles of Support & Accountability, and Lisa, from West Yorkshire Probation, are awarded for their contributions to the risk management of sexual offenders in the community. Through their skill and dedication they drove forward the Circles-approach in West Yorkshire, and integrated it within the MAPPA system, as well as developing a unique, peer-support based approach for offenders falling outside the scope of Circles itself. (This Award is supported by G4S Care & Justice Services.)
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
[Lisa Tedstill gives her account of the work for which she won her Award]
Crisis support of sex offenders is an innovative and unique project developed in Leeds alongside Circles of Support and Accountability. Volunteers work to offer tailored support to reduce immediate risk of re-offending. This service is now mainstream across Yorkshire
In 2010 Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) were introduced to the Leeds area and they were aimed at high risk sex offenders who were socially isolated and took responsibility for their offending. During the first year of my running this project in the Leeds area it became quickly apparent that we were receiving many referrals that whilst unsuitable for a Circle did have an identified short term need in order to stop risk escalation. In October 2011 the details of such were collated and an application made for funding to the West Yorkshire Probation innovation fund to pilot a crisis mentoring service to prevent risk escalation amongst Registered Sex Offenders. This bid was successful and funding was made available to run an initial 6 month pilot in the Leeds area. This innovation was fully supported by the Head of Service for Probation in Leeds.
By January 2012 10 current Circle volunteers had received additional training focussing on the practicalities of being on the Sex Offender register and day to day living with Sex Offender Prevention orders and Licence conditions. The service was designed to be flexible and responsive to the individuals needs and was unique to the UK in that it was delivered by pairs of volunteers with specialist training. The service was open to all on the Register with an identified crisis need and included work with deniers. The project literally hit the ground running such was the demand and referrals flooded in from police, probation, mental health, programmes tutors, court staff, social care and the local prison.
The issues that were tackled in the short pilot period were wide ranging and included housing, disability, job centre problems, benefits, disclosure, emotional and practical support for initial stages of treatment, SOR/SOPO adjustment issues, practical support to supplement a Circle, ROTLs and through the gate support. By the pilot end in March 2012 23 cases had been dealt with and the Probation Head of Service for Leeds led the way in continuing funding for the next financial year.
Such has been the success of the Leeds project that Yorkshi8re and Humberside COSA were then able to approach the cabinet office Rehabilitation and Social Action Fund and provide evidence of a need for this service to be widened across Yorkshire. Funding was granted in October 2013 to recruit 3 part time facilitators to run the service across North, West and South Yorkshire. This innovative service was handed over to YHCOSA in February 2014 and is now operating across North, South and West Yorkshire.
[The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]
Innovative work with high risk sex offenders earned Lisa Tedstill and Melva Burton a Butler Trust Award, sponsored by The Barrow Cadbury Trust.
As Director of Yorkshire and Humberside Circles of Support and Accountability (YHCOSA), Melva led the development of Circles across the region – a successful initiative that involves trained volunteers working with sex offenders in the community to help them to reintegrate and reduce their likelihood of further offending. When Lisa, a Leeds-based Probation Officer became one of the four Circles Coordinators appointed for each area of the region, they worked closely to set up the West Yorkshire Circles Project.
The profile of this new and challenging area of work began to soar as they established strong relationships with voluntary, community and faith groups and promoted the new resource within probation, prisons and police.
Lisa’s role was initially part-time, becoming full-time when they won funding from the West Yorkshire Probation’s innovation fund to pilot an additional mentoring scheme for Leeds for those who don’t meet the criteria for a full Circle, or who had an immediate need that might lead to further offending. The result, according to West Yorkshire Probation Chief Executive, Sue Hall, was ‘an outstanding success story, which contributes directly to reducing reoffending and protecting the public in West Yorkshire.’
From the outset, Lisa’s commitment, passion and enthusiasm for Circles gained her the respect of police, probation and a team of volunteers and established a strong and effective service to deal with this notoriously difficult group.
According to Detective Inspector Lawrence Bone, Leeds District Safeguarding and Public Protection Unit, ‘Lisa’s boundless enthusiasm coupled with her practical experience as a highly competent Probation Officer has been the driver behind the ever increasing development of Circles in West Yorkshire. To date the project has had tangible positives in the management of some of the most serious offenders in society.’
Melva has worked closely with Lisa to support her in making the right contacts, including crucial links with the Police, who are now a key partner in Circles. ‘One of the key factors with the success of Circles of Support and Accountability in Leeds lies with Lisa’s ability to drive the project forward with such determination and commitment that other agencies such as the Police cannot help but also be enthused and realise the full benefits of such a scheme,’ says Detective Superintendent Carla Derbyshire.
Colleagues in Circles have been quick to identify Melva as a key factor in the success of Circles across the region. ‘Her commitment has been a real inspiration and motivates others to engage with us at all levels,’ says Melissa Betts, Circles Coordinator in South Yorkshire. ‘She goes that extra mile and we all get to reap the rewards of her infectious energy and passion for the work that we do!’
Sue Hall summarised appreciation for the partnership: ‘They are an inspiration to other Circles projects across the country and to local probation and police colleagues.’