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

STEVEN SWAN (Merseyside CRC / North West NPS)

STEVEN SWAN (Merseyside CRC / North West NPS)

COMMENDEE 2021-22: Merseyside CRC’s Community Director Karen Rooney Butler Trust superbly captures exactly why Steven Swan makes an outstanding Probation Service Officer – and why the young Liverpudlian males he works with are lucky indeed:

He gives people hope’

“The stand out aspect to Steven’s practice is that he gives people hope. As a senior manager, he gives me hope. If I was a young person, who had adverse childhood experiences, with mounting convictions, I would know the odds were stacked against me. There could be nobody better to work alongside to help you find your way and advocate for you than Steven Swan. And I know he does this tirelessly with all of the young people he works with.”

As Kim Thornden-Edwards, Managing Director of Interserve’s justice business which handles probation for about 11,000 – around a quarter – of the UK’s young offenders, says: “What better accolade can a probation officer have?”

The wide range of testimonials from colleagues across Merseyside paint the picture of a consummate professional particularly gifted at working with 18 to 25 year-old males – at best “one of the more difficult groups to work with.” Steven’s outstanding rapport with them is part of what Senior Probation Officer Amanda Hamilton calls “his magic”. Other ingredients mentioned include compassion, consistency, and commitment. She recalls Steven making sure charges are out of bed and “hand delivered” to courses – and keeping this up “until the barriers are removed.”

His colleagues’ regard for Steven is such, says Amanda, “that it would bring great pleasure to his wider team for Steven to be recognised.” She’s certain the young people he supports would agree, too. Alison and Lisa said they “can tell on reception he has a great relationship with his service users, they are always greeted with a smile and he always asks how they are. He is eager to help in any situation and is always there for advice.” Phil Nettle, an Intensive Mentor for Merseyside Youth Association, says:

“Steve is brilliant to work with. He’s very easy to get along with and doesn’t sugar coat any situation. It’s obvious he knows his job and more importantly knows the lads he works with and cares about. Most telling is when you talk to the lads about Steve. They speak highly of him and clearly respect him. This is because they trust him and if he says he’ll do something for them it gets done. He’s been a massive, positive part of developing what I’m doing over the past year.”

Quality Officer Ashleigh Latta notes “how pleasing it is that Steven still hasn’t lost any of his passion and commitment.” Qualities reflected by one of the ‘young lads’, now working in a Birmingham kitchen, who says “Steven was really different to other officers.”

Some of that difference may lie in Steven’s own journey to his current role and becoming a Butler Trust winner. Raised on a Liverpool estate with “a very poor reputation,” he left school with few qualifications and little confidence. A diagnosis of dyslexia in his forties threw a retrospective light on those early struggles, and his determination to go forward is evident in the way he decided to self-fund a university course during the first Covid lockdown while in full time work. Understandably proud of earning a Diploma of Higher Education in Community Justice, he’s now onto his next qualification: in Professional Probation training.

One of Steven’s favourite discussions with young men, he says, is when he explores their aspirations. “Regardless of background or adverse experiences,” he says, “all young people have dreams and all young people want a positive future for themselves.”

That positive future can start with such basics as opening a bank account. “Many would be surprised to learn,” he says, “how having their first bank account can make someone feel socially included.” He gives a moving example, which from an account led to the young man becoming “the proud owner of a scooter bike”. Talking with Steven recently, he said: “I am a someone now.”

“This reminds me that the reason why I do what I do is to enhance the lives of others.” When Covid happened, he stepped it up further, making sure his young men all had mobile phones and that they were properly informed of both the new risks and behavioural expectations. He concludes with an inspiring remark:

“This nomination has given me the energy to do even better moving forward. And for that, I thank all those involved.”

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