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

LAURA GREENHILL (Dorset, Devon and Cornwall CRC)

LAURA GREENHILL (Dorset, Devon and Cornwall CRC)

AWARD WINNER 2017-18: Laura is a Probation Support Officer with Dorset, Devon & Cornwall CRC. She receives an Award for her vision and ‘tireless enthusiasm’ in all aspects of her role, and in particular in helping develop Exeter’s Community Hub as a valuable new resource for vulnerable people in the area. [This Award is supported by Serco Justice Services.]

Not only has Laura Greenhill been involved in many projects helping the more vulnerable users of the Dorset Devon & Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company (DDC CRC), she has cleverly extended these to provide a range additional support, including for others in the community, in turn creating a non-judgemental space for core users to develop in. Results have also been seen more widely in the local community, for instance in a photographic exhibition.

As a colleague in YMCA, one of a number of partnerships she has helped forge, put it:

“Laura is one of a kind. A total hero…She is 100% committed and incredibly compassionate with clients. I have thoroughly enjoyed designing and delivering interventions with her and would be lost without her. She is an example to us all.”

Just some of Laura’s involvements, explains initial nominator Samantha Dan, Locality Operational Manager at DDC CRC, include ‘co-facilitating’ Friday activity events like “bike ride, photography, Forest School, allotment and crafts” and then organising a photography exhibition, described as “an amazing event, presenting the photography and stories of CRC service users”. Further work has involved ‘co-facilitating Peer Mentoring training’, an opportunity for individuals to develop skills, setting up ‘the 1-1 assessment and the job club’, among much else. In short, says Samantha, “her innovation and creativity is inspirational.”

Clients are enthusiastic, too, with one saying, “Laura always gets stuff done and goes out of her way to help people out. She is brilliant. She always has time for people.” Another added, “Laura is approachable, genuinely compassionate and kind.”

Local Butler Trust Champion Trevor Gardner, Community Integration Manager at Working Links, calls Laura “a fantastic practitioner [who] is able to manage different and very often challenging and potentially volatile situations with confidence and compassion.” As Trevor notes:

“Despite the huge changes within the probation sector over recent years affecting many people, Laura has remained a constant beacon of reliability, realistic optimism, with a can-do approach and a constant smile. She is a fine ambassador for the CRC, and is held in the highest regard by service users, colleagues, CRC managers and all the many partner agencies she works closely with.”

Fiona Carden, Director of Learning and Innovation at Co-Lab, part of Exeter Council’s Voluntary Services, concurs, adding, “I have worked with Laura at the Co-Lab Wellbeing Hub in Exeter for the last 18 months. Many people talk about collaborative practice and few are able to really put it into practice. Laura has not only demonstrated collaboration in practice but her skills extended to being able to support and encourage others to work in partnership. Laura is an exemplar of how effective collaboration can work across sectors.”

DDC CRC’s Director of Probation, John Wiseman, says Laura is “a great role model to others as she doesn’t just talk the talk, but day by day walks the walk.”

Laura is understandably proud of her successful ‘Exchange’ project, a twice-weekly ‘drop in’ where service users can get advice and guidance about training, employment, volunteering, housing, mentoring as well as finance and debt advice. Further, says Laura, “this valuable resource is available to current CRC service users and also any members of the community who are vulnerable or struggling with aspects of their lives.” Building on this with a colleague from the YMCA led to ‘Exchange Plus’, a weekly project with activities including cycling, photography, forest school, crafts, and cooking. Service users documented and photographed what they enjoyed about the sessions, and their city, “and from this put together a photography exhibition with an excellent opening night where service users were invited to mingle, tell their stories and show their work.” Another Exchange development is a job club.

In most weeks, these projects see over a hundred people with complex issues who “often require de-escalation, crisis management, a multi-agency response and ongoing support”. It’s all part of “a wider community of learning, culture, horticulture, art and activity”, says Laura.

As she notes, “One of the best aspects of our community hub is that people come in without a label – they could be there for so many reasons from a visit to the GP to a training course – we have repeated feedback that this offers a safe and non-judgmental environment for people to come into.”

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