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

DEREK RHODEN (North West National Probation Service)

DEREK RHODEN (North West National Probation Service)

COMMENDEE 2020-21: Derek Rhoden is a Senior Probation Officer who is Commended for his clear, consistent, and compassionate impact across a wide range of work, including his ongoing and influential focus on, and contributions to, diversity and inclusion. His commitment and passion, across all his roles – including his wider charitable work in the community – is notable and clearly held in very high regard indeed by his colleagues.

Janice France, Senior Probation Officer and Initial Nominator, calls Derek “a truly compassionate individual who works tirelessly to develop and promote effective dialogue, not only within the office, but also throughout the region. He is a positive role model and continuously goes above and beyond to raise awareness and create a culture to embrace acceptance and diversity.”

She adds that Derek’s work “does not stop at the probation front door”, and says “he carries this on through his support of many community groups.” Quietly, within his role, she reports, Derek “has developed relationships with many charitable organisations to assist foreign national offenders in accessing support when they have no recourse to public funds. He is steadfast in his approach to gaining advocacy on behalf of individuals who face adversity.”

Meanwhile, Janice says, “Derek has striven to make sure the support networks already available for BAME and disabled staff are promoted through staff awareness events… Derek puts others and their needs at the forefront of what he does, going above and beyond what is expected within his role, to progress understanding and effect change in a thought provoking, humorous and engaging manner.”

Colleagues from across the North West not only comment on the “resounding success” of events Derek leads on, but also his “regard for his colleagues and the time he affords to engage effectively and meaningfully with service users.”

“Derek came to me as a fellow colleague and offered a much-needed ear following my son’s diagnosis of Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. It was a frightening and scary time as a parent and I was confused about the pathways available for my son and for us as family. Derek was really understanding and helped me see the positives that could be achieved and how we could progress as a family. He has been a great sense of both practical and emotional support and for this I am forever grateful,” writes a Senior Probation Officer colleague. She adds that “Derek is passionate about inclusion for all and this shines through via his professional career and charity work. He is the Chair of Trustees for POINT – a charity in Oldham for people with additional needs and disabilities. He has assisted many families across the Oldham Borough, promoting a culture of peer support and inclusivity, actively working to reduce social isolation for some of the most marginalised within society.” She concludes that for the NPS, Derek “is nothing short of an ambassador. His commitment to promoting diversity is second to none. He encourages a culture of learning and reflection. He encourages conversation. He ensures inclusivity. He is an asset, not just for our cluster and the NW, but for the NPS as a whole.”

Chelsea Banham, NW HRBP, calls Derek “a kind, honest and socially conscious individual. He has a ‘can-do’ positive attitude and I have always found him extremely supportive. He is a real asset to the team and a true advocate for inclusion and diversity.”

Deborah Lowe, Divisional Business Manager and Butler Trust Local Champion, shares still more testimonials from colleagues. Nisha Bakshi, Assistant Chief Officer, calls Derek “a kind and warm person whose values underpin everything he does. This is evident in the numerous pieces of work he has led on or supported others to lead or participate in relating to valuing equality and embracing diversity. His values are not only evident in his work but in his approach and behaviours towards all.” Nisha adds “I line managed Derek for over 5 years and during that time received positive feedback about him not only as a manager, colleague, and peer, but about him as a person; about his care, his understanding and his compassion.”

Chelsea says Derek “is determined to enable voices to be heard, validated and accepted. Derek is a role model to managers, colleagues, staff and service users.” In addition, Chelsea reports that Derek has served for a number of years on the executive for Association of Black Probation Officers, and adds that he is “a driving force locally for not only awareness raising of a wide range of diversity issues, but for bringing a real passion and commitment to supporting others experiencing difficulties both within the context of work and his personal life.” She notes, too, that “Derek exudes positivity and uses fun and creative ideas to broaden people’s knowledge base and enhance the capacity for individuals to work in an inclusive manner.”

Chelsea also points out that, like a great many Butler Trust winners, “Derek is not one to shout about his own achievements and would see his work as business as usual, but as can be viewed by the personal testimonies provided by others. Derek goes above and beyond in his approach, his support and care for others and models how he himself is open to learning.”

Chris Edwards, Regional Probation Director for Greater Manchester, points out that “Irrespective of current headlines, Derek has been a consistent voice against inequality within Probation in Greater Manchester. Understated and with humility, he has been a doer – supporting staff networks, provoking others to think and engaging with local charities. I note the comment that he is ‘kind, honest and socially conscious’ – exactly the ingredients I want to see in all Probation staff but all the more important when you consider the current context in which we work. When you add in Derek’s other strengths around diligence and hard work, you get someone who makes a difference.”

Derek himself says that he “grew up in a country where the motto is ‘out of many one people’ – this is a principle I live by, and which has helped me to fully understand and appreciate the positives of difference and inclusivity. I have always put myself forward to champion social justice, recognising that I can make a difference to the lives of people I come into contact with. These values are important to me and I am strong advocate for treating all with respect and dignity.”

He adds, thoughtfully, that “this nomination has given me the opportunity to reflect on some of the things I have done over the years and will no doubt continue to do in support of the people I come into contact within my work and personal life.”

In conclusion, Derek says “I do not shout about the things I do”, but can say that being recognised “says a lot for me and is a great experience and an inspiration to go on and do even more.” This nomination – and now Commendation – provides, he says “confirmation that I am making a difference and indeed valued within my organisation.” Indeed he does, indeed he is.

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