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

JOHN HOLSEY (Stonnall Road Approved Premises)

JOHN HOLSEY (Stonnall Road Approved Premises)

AWARD WINNER 2022-23: John receives an Award for his outstanding management and support of colleagues, his caring approach to residents, and his relentless enthusiasm and dedication, as Manager of Stonnall Road Approved Premises. He is, according to his nomination, “an exceptional character”, “respected by all”.
[His Award is supported by Mitie Care and Custody.]

John Holsey is described by his initial nominator and Approved Premises Area Manager, Monika Furnival, as ‘an inspirational man.’ She notes that John has worked ‘managing extremist offenders’ – specialised work that is ‘very intensive’, but John ‘always remained calm under pressure and always had time for his colleagues, checking that everyone was well and managing both their work and personal lives.’ But, says Monika, John’s ‘area of passion’ is working in Approved Premises (AP), and his team at Stonnall Road AP call him ‘firm but fair’ and ‘he is liked by every one of them.’ A valued colleague who listens carefully to everything ‘and always gives considered arguments’, Monika says that ‘John does not talk as much as others, but everything he says is worth listening to.’

Alongside his AP role, she adds, ‘he is a mental health ally – expanding on his previous desire to ensure that everyone is well.’ He leads in several areas like Security and Health & Safety, too, and ‘recently starred in a video showing staff how to conduct room searches, alongside two of his staff. John’s modesty about this piece of work does not reflect the importance that such a training video has in the AP estate.’

John’s commitment to his AP ‘is outstanding’, and he has worked with staff and residents ‘to transform’ its aesthetics, ‘inside and out’. As well as cultivating a vegetable patch and digging out a pond, he has also put together ‘an amazing Zen Garden space’ to improve the mental health of both residents and staff. And if Zen doesn’t do it, the AP also ‘has the pleasure of an amazing chicken coop’ with ‘fresh eggs daily’ from the rescued chickens.

His energy and management style, says Monika, ‘encourages both staff and residents to get involved in all these projects and teaches residents some important life skills.’ She adds that recently he has worked with an organisation to bring therapy pets into the workplace. John’s motivation to provide an excellent service is, says Monika, ‘unparalleled.’ She shares an example from a Microsoft Teams meeting when it became clear that another manager had a crisis:

‘Without hesitation, John excused himself from the meeting and immediately drove to this other AP to assist with both practical and emotional support. John works tirelessly and despite having a young family, he has given so much time and energy into the Probation Service, improving the lives of both People on Probation and his colleagues.’

John works closely with the community and local charities, especially Acorns, a local children’s hospice, recently getting staff and residents ‘to walk over a million steps to raise money for them.’ She concludes by saying ‘his sincerity and care can be seen in all that he does so that others can have a better chance of change.’

Tammy Wiggan, a colleague and AP Manager, notes that John has a substantial reputation in the Midlands AP Area, and calls him:

‘the epitome of a gentleman. He is sincere, compassionate and considered in everything that he does. In recent months, he has shown extensive support to both the team and I when we experienced a tragedy in the workplace…John really is a great man and a great colleague.’

Another colleague and AP Manager, Victoria Lynch, says that ‘Each and every day I am in awe of John’s ability to maintain his calm, focused, responsive and engaging demeanour with everyone he encounters – even when there has been absolute chaos around him/us. He is relentless in his enthusiasm, positivity and support for all.’ She calls him ‘an exceptional character’ who ‘is respected by all that know him’ with a commitment to the work of the Probation Service and Protection of the Public that ‘is inspirational.’

Bernadette Thurman, noting that several of his peers nominated John alongside his line manager, adds her own support as Head of Midlands APs, calling John ‘an ambassador for all that is good about the service, showing unwavering commitment, energy and creativity to supporting AP residents, and similar unwavering support for his team.’ She describes him as ‘one of the most inspirational colleagues I have had the pleasure of working with’, and a man who is ‘humorous and friendly’ albeit ‘somewhat understated, and genuinely modest.’

John says his career ‘remains as professionally rewarding and motivating to me as the first day,’ and talks of ‘the love and passion’ which remains embedded whilst working within the Criminal Justice System. He further notes that in addition to aesthetics, Zen, and eggs, there is an on-site allotment project, woodworking, furniture upcycling, and an ‘ongoing partnership with the local authority and its clean and green services which has involved community litter picking.’  Meanwhile the therapy dog, he reports, ‘has had huge benefits to our resident group particularly those with a history of self-harm or difficulties in communication.’

He adds that in the last 12 months he is proud to report that the initiative in support of Acorns ‘has led to the hostel staff and residents raising over £1200 to provide toys/items of comfort to children and their families in their darkest hours.’ He has also set up links with a Christian based charity ‘that amongst other things acts as a local foodbank and community support hub.’ He’s also found income streams ‘to further develop our projects,’ including ‘exercise equipment and a summer house.’

He is also working ‘to tackle community prejudice and discrimination’ that is sometimes ‘levelled towards the hostel and its residents’, including ‘meeting with the local Neighbourhood Watch Committee, Police and Ward Councillors to educate those present regarding our role.’

He concludes, rather wonderfully:

‘I feel proud to not only be representing myself but my team and the wider AP estate. The level of time invested in the work detailed above has been significant and unquantifiable, but extremely worthwhile and a genuine labour of love… I’m blessed and privileged to be employed in this role and I will continue to repay this by making a positive difference to the lives of residents, colleagues and our communities alike.’