Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice

AUDREY BECKFORD (West Midlands National Probation Service)

AUDREY BECKFORD (West Midlands National Probation Service)

COMMENDEE 2021-22: For nearly three decades Audrey Beckford has been deploying a powerful blend of forensic expertise, empathy, and an enduring commitment to drive excellence in Probation. Her outstanding work has had an impact on clients, and the teams she has led and trained, both regionally and nationally. Now Deputy Head of the West Midlands Further Serious Offence Team, she is a leading light at extending best policy and practice underpinned by her impressive depth and breadth of experience and knowledge. The HMPPS Insights Team were so impressed by her work that she’s engaging with them on a national guide to share and scale FSO expertise across the service.

‘Quiet, determined, and gracious’

Audrey’s leadership qualities were evident from her early advocacy of partnership working, and her recent work developing SFO workshops, says Line Manager Glyn Holand. And when COVID halted the workshops, she found alternative ways of letting staff dial in, ask questions, and continue their development.

Audrey also led regionally in implementing the COVID-19 EDM, including deciding to take on all Early Look Checks (ELC) in the region, “a move very much appreciated by operational colleagues” and which saw “a sharp rise in the quality of these ELCs” and ensuring that appropriate actions “were identified at an early stage.” Her efficient and caring leadership is a “pleasure to manage,” says Glyn, and always produces high quality work. Meanwhile her professionalism and commitment, say Liz Chapman and Sarah Dickson of the National SFO Team, is helping drive practice improvements that are “second to none.”

Neil Appleby, NPS Head in Birmingham, says “Audrey is renowned, including by me, for her integrity and humanity.” Barbara Tudor of the Victims Unit, and herself a former Butler Trust winner, says Audrey “always makes sure victims’ perspective are taken on board,” as shown in her work with Barbara helping create the Victim Awareness Workbook. Jamie Ann Edwards, meanwhile, praised her for inspiring staff with “her calm, ‘can do’ and supportive approach,” adding that, when necessary, she is “quietly tenacious”:

“Audrey always makes herself approachable and available if needed. She explicitly checks the wellbeing of those within her team, never making assumptions that everyone is OK but instead making time to really check this out. She has been a great source of help and support through the pandemic. I have never worked with somebody that gives as much attention to detail as Audrey does. She gives the team appropriate challenge when needed, but they always feel supported and appreciated.”

Recognised nationally and regionally for her professionalism, integrity and “constant pushing of both self and others to deliver an excellent service to victims, staff and the wider general public,” and with her “total commitment to leaving no stone unturned” and an “unfailing sense of ethical purpose”, Jamie says Audrey is also “absolutely unflappable” while “commanding enormous admiration for her compassionate leadership.”

Her leadership during COVID led staff to talk about a level of “empathy, care and support” which let them keep working even while managing complex personal demands. One called her “the embodiment of a supportive directional leader”, another adding that she was “proving that you can be empathetic while delivering results,” and a third calling her “a fantastic line manager.” Regional Probation Director Sarah Chand agrees, calling Audrey a “quiet, determined and gracious individual” bringing “professionalism, compassion and fairness to everything she does.”

Audrey considers herself “overly blessed with a significant and inspiring career”. She also notes that her original degree in Physical Chemistry has been a real asset in tackling “detail and analysis” while exploring her deep interest in “the science of changing behaviours.” The career she draws upon is truly impressive, too, and includes “Prisons; Domestic Abuse; OASYS; Victims; Deaths under supervision; Organised Crimes, Guns and Gangs, and MAPPA, deputising for the Head of Public Protection and the divisional Head of Approved Premises across the division.”

She says her “personal drive, flexibility and resilience to help build an excellent organisation” is because “I have never been satisfied with anything less.” It’s an attitude she promotes widely, including in her “successfully working with underperforming teams,” and delivering “quality improvement” using her analytical skills, interpreting soft and hard information to formulate effective plans and make improvements.  Senior leaders have called her “a safe pair of hands”, and it’s clear from the testimonials that colleagues agree Audrey is herself a superb leader, combining rigour and compassion to apply her knowledge and experience to really make a difference.

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