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



COMMENDEES 2019-20: Deborah and Lisa are Commended for their work, with KSS CRC, in driving forward a peer mentoring project, employing ex-service users to reach those at greatest risk of breaching their probation.

Initial nominator and Assistant Chief Probation Officer, Claire Jones, explains the background to the work for which Deborah and Lisa are Commended: “In May 2015 it was decided that Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company (KSS CRC) would employ ex/service users to reach those at the highest risk of breach and to help inspire others to change. Both Lisa Udale and Debbie McLening were key drivers behind the creation of the Case Support Worker team, volunteering to turn the proposal into a reality.”

Following the recruitment to the posts, Claire goes on, “they organised the induction processes for the case support workers and helped staff become more open to the idea of the role. Speaking fondly of the team, one of our case support workers said, ‘I couldn’t have been more welcomed by the team. Everyone was great, very helpful and encouraging. My line manager is always very supportive and any questions, queries, complaints or concerns that I have are dealt with.’ He continues, ‘All of this support helps to make me more efficient. I have now been in post for 14 months and in that time, I have helped many service users.’”

Claire explains that these new case support workers “have offered additional support to approximately 70 service users at the highest risk of breach” and details their impact: “There has been a continuous and dramatic decline in the most serious breaches (those resulting in an amendment, committal to custody, recall, re-sentence or imposed supervision default order). In Ashford it’s declined by 190% from July to December (29 to 10); for Brighton 266% from January to December (11 to 3).”

Furthermore, she reports a service user survey showing “100% of the service users helped by a case support worker agree their work has made a difference to their lives. 90% agree it has helped them to engage more with probation and 90% agree they feel less likely to re-offend.” Claire adds:

“Without the hard work and dedication put in by Lisa and Debbie, these statistics would not be possible. They have played a vital role in the outcomes achieved. Lisa and Debbie have got the project off the ground, overcome many initial hurdles and have always persevered. They continue to work behind the scenes to make sure the work of our case support workers is valuable… On more than one occasion they told me to keep the faith it would all work out, and it did!”

Butler Trust Local Champion and Chief Executive Suki Binning points out that this project was in addition to their day jobs where “Lisa is a full-time senior probation officer and Debbie runs our volunteer team with over 100 volunteers.” Suki points out that “Lisa and Debbie’s expertise, enthusiasm and tireless commitment has ensured that the implementation of case support workers has not only gone smoothly but exceeded all expectations. Both have been key players in the organisation’s service user engagement and involvement strategy over the last four years. This is driven by their passion and belief in the role of rehabilitation and lived experience to support service delivery.” She also notes that although the project was led by a senior manager, “Lisa and Debbie made everything happen.”

Suki notes that, at times, “there were obstacles to moving the project along, notably lengthy referencing periods and staff negativity, but Debbie and Lisa never gave up. They were always positive and reassuring and most notably, unwavering in their belief in how those with lived experience could help some of the most hard-to-reach service users. Staff now value the work of our case support workers. 100% agree they have made a difference to the lives of service users and 100% agree that service users are more able to engage with probation. 100% of staff also say the case support worker is fully integrated into their team.”

Suki says:

“Lisa is such a bubbly, friendly person and is always willing to provide a helping hand. She has such a presence wherever she goes, with a great way of engaging those she comes across. She is passionate and determined, never giving up despite any hurdles she faces. Lisa has provided fantastic support to her new case support workers, welcoming them to the team and settling them in well. She is always available to them when they need support.”

“Debbie is a great leader, always encouraging her staff and going the extra mile to create an inclusive environment. She has played a massive part in influencing the case support workers team and reassuring existing staff that it’s a great initiative. She always has a smile on her face too, providing a warm and friendly welcome to all, just like Lisa. This is why they have worked, and will continue to work, so well together.”

Both of the case support workers recruited for this initiative provided their own testimonials: “They has been pivotal to my transition as a case support worker and its success; the tireless support and conviction in making its delivery as relevant and robust as possible, has not only led to a greater awareness of the role throughout the workforce and communities I work in, but has also made the inclusion of myself as a valuable member of the team much easier for me to perform my job to the highest standard,” says one, while the other adds, “Due to Lisa’s continued help, advice, encouragement and support, the Case Support Workers are more able to engage with the harder to reach service users and help them to bring about change in their lives, something that would not be possible without her.”

There were testimonials in turn for the case support workers Deborah and Lisa have recruited, supported, and embedded in the team:

“Julian* is a highly thought of and respected colleague who always goes the extra mile and goes out of his way to help staff. His engagement with service users has meant that fewer have been breached or been sent back to court.”

“His tireless positivity and outlook not only helps our service users but [it] also rubs off on the staff who feed off his positive energy.”

“Pete* is creative and innovative in his ways to keep people engaged”

“He always goes above and beyond to help both the service users and his colleagues.”

“During the time he was supporting my service user he became far more involved in pro-social activities in the community.”

“I have appreciated how he has gone above and beyond to do jobs that are not strictly speaking within his remit – he is a great team player.”

Service users, too, added their own remarks about the impact of the new Case Support Workers:

“Yes, it definitely has made a difference. He [the case support worker] knows what it’s been like. He’s not just telling you. He knows what it’s like.”

“Peter always thought so positively and I thought the reverse. It’s given me a new perspective.”

“He’s more available than a probation officer; he’s there. I’d text him and he’d ring me in twenty minutes, half-hour.”

“[Pete] bridges all the gaps. You get on much better with your probation officer because you got Pete in the same room. Pete fills that gap – bridges that gap – makes it easier.”

Deborah explains some of the background to the work:

“Lisa and I knew official questions do not always allow applicants to express themselves fully, so we developed a group activity where we could get to see other attributes from the applicants. Many of the applicants would not have been through the formal process of attending an interview and to ensure they felt supported, Lisa made contact with them all prior to attending. We also made the format as informal as possible by including lunch I also had some of our volunteer mentors to do the meet and greet, and to spend time chatting with them informally throughout the day. During this time it was really important we kept everyone motivated and enthused.”

Deborah adds “I am so passionate about the work we do I could not leave. I am so proud of the work our Case Support Workers do on a daily basis. I have seen them develop from nervous apprehensive applicants to fully embedded respected members of their teams. It has also been a great progression route for some of our volunteer peer mentors progressing on to a paid role, it has been a real privilege to be support the mentors’ progression and to be an active part of their journey.”

Lisa says she was “also very aware that this needed to be a supportive and positive experience for the service users being interviewed,” and says “I have line managed our Case Support Workers throughout the project. This has been an important balance of ensuring that they were aware of the boundaries and restrictions of the role, whilst also allowing them the creativity that they bring to the role, which is the aim – to engage differently with the hardest to reach service users.”

Lisa goes on to describe participating in this project as “the most challenging but equally the most enjoyable part of my career to date. It has provided organisational change to the recruitment of individuals with criminal convictions and promoted the engagement of staff within this. The Case Support Workers have helped a large number of individuals and the feedback they receive is fantastic.” She adds that she enjoys reading the feedback provided from the service users they help “and I am always proud when I hear the Responsible Officers talking about the amazing work that the CSWs have undertaken and frequently approached from offices that do not have a CSW to ask when they can have one. This has certainly been the most enjoyable and fulfilling part of my career to date.”

* Names have been anonymised


With thanks to Kent, Surrey & Sussex CRC, especially initial nominator and Assistant Chief Probation Officer Claire Jones, Butler Trust Local Champion and Chief Executive Suki Binning, as well as numerous colleagues and young service users, for their contributions.

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