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

SHARON HARAMBEE (Peterborough PIPE Approved Premises)

SHARON HARAMBEE (Peterborough PIPE Approved Premises)

Sharon Harambee

COMMENDEE 2022-23: Senior Probation Officer Sharon’s Commendation is for the “inspirational leadership”, “inventiveness”, and “determination” she showed in transforming Peterborough Approved Premises, after a troubled period for residents and staff, into a fully-functioning Psychologically Informed Planned Environment.

Sharon’s initial nominator and Approved Premises Area Manager David Leaberry explains the difficult circumstances in which she took up a temporary agency role as an Operational Manager, and how she not only met the challenges with ‘absolute dedication’ but went on to achieve ‘excellent results’ and ‘far exceeded what would have been acceptable given her position’.

‘In 2019 Peterborough Approved Premises (AP) endured a difficult period in its history losing both its Area and Operational Managers in a month and having to use part-time temporary cover to manage Operational Activities for several months. The team applied themselves really well in working with covering managers and keeping the day-to-day running of the AP to a good standard. In the Autumn of 2019 the AP suffered a double-blow in that there were two tragic deaths of residents within a two month period which had a significant impact upon the team.

Sharon, who had been working as an agency Senior Probation Officer at another AP, agreed to cover Peterborough and joined the team on the week the second resident was hospitalised for what turned out to be fatal overdose. On arrival she was faced with picking up the pieces and helping the team cope with the impact of the deaths while at the same time hitting the ground running with the day-to-day operational management of an Approved Premises which had experienced only limited management oversight for several months. Notably Peterborough is a large AP with 31 beds.’

Sharon, says David, set about the task ‘with compassion, rigour and inventiveness from the outset’, backing up her emphasis on staff support with changes to processes and systems ‘which not only improved the effective running of the AP but also reduced the chances of further deaths.’

Before long ‘the functioning and the spirit of the AP began to improve and lift,’ says David, but Sharon then took on ‘an additional and very significant challenge’: helping Peterborough AP work towards PIPE (Psychologically Informed Planned Environment) status. ‘Sharon quickly picked this up’, he says, and began the process of transforming Peterborough AP into a functioning PIPE. This, as David explains, ‘has been a huge step which has involved the re-determination of the way the AP works with residents to a relational model necessitating a shift in the way the staff understand their work and the impact of it.’

David goes on to praise Sharon as ‘a clever manager and a great leader’ who developed her understanding of the PIPE model ‘quickly and thoroughly’. So well, in fact, that under Sharon’s guidance, the new operational roles, new practices and substantial changes were fluently delivered. Remarkably, says David, Sharon drove through this transformational change while still in her agency role, for the most part ‘with little job security’ and yet continued to show her qualities ‘as an inspirational leader.’ He ends his nomination, happily, by saying: ‘I am delighted to finish by stating that her job did become ‘vacant’ this year – and she was successfully appointed to the role.’

Nicola Fieldhouse, who is a Probation Officer and Regime Lead at the Peterborough PIPE Approved Premises, shared a powerful and personal testimonial to Sharon:

‘Change is endemic in Probation and I was flagging and also felt I was stagnating… Naïvely, I felt I had ‘seen it all’ but I had not. Under Sharon’s tutelage, although she would not see it as such (her ‘mentoring’ is subtle), I have learned so much. Sharon’s understanding of all the nuances associated with risk are so astute but this is coupled with how to manage those risks with humanity, she does not lose sight that we are dealing with people and all their vagaries, nor the consideration of their victims… Residents and colleagues alike experience Sharon as ‘approachable, authoritative, sagacious, supportive, caring, forthright, decisive, human-being, leader.’ I had wanted to leave the Probation Service; now I do not.’

Meanwhile Victoria Jeffries, Head of Public Protection (Residential) for Kent, Surrey, Sussex & East of England Regions Community Accommodation Services (CAS) in the Directorate of Reducing Reoffending, Partnerships and Accommodation, praises Sharon’s ‘dedication, commitment and hard work, along with her achievements at Peterborough,’ and says they ‘epitomise everything that is exceptional about our Approved Premises and their contribution to probation work”.

Sharon describes something of what drives her, saying ‘I have never lost the passion and belief that we can support people to change and thereby protect people and communities from harm that brought me into the Probation Service 38 years ago. I am passionate about what the probation service can offer to people resident in an AP and also what it should offer to staff.’

Nevertheless, she adds that ‘navigating this has been a challenge at times’, citing staff shortages as well as the ‘many changes and challenges’ the Covid pandemic brought, in addition to the change from being a generic Approved Premises to becoming a PIPE Approved premises. However, she says, ‘I truly believe that by reminding ourselves of our mission, examining and designing the way that we deliver services to the men who are resident with us through this lens and one of diversity and inclusion is what enables the service to be as effective as it is.’

She concludes by saying ‘Today I lead a PIPE AP who confidently deliver a range of services and activities to residents with very complex issues and support them to manage their risks and transition to the community in a positive way. I am proud to say that I manage Peterborough PIPE Approved Premises.’