Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2017-18: Wayne is a Probation Officer for London CRC; nominated by an offender and described as ‘a shining beacon’, he is Commended for his inspirational work in supporting young offenders into employment.
Rahamatt Lewis – popularly known as Wayne – is an indefatigable Probation Officer who pours his energy into helping young offenders get worthwhile work. Nominated by a service user who calls him “a shining beacon” and “a testament to humanity”, Wayne’s dedication shows how the dignity of work transforms lives.
Wayne’s initial nominator, a service user named Brian*, tells a tale worth repeating at length:
“During my time at HMP Belmarsh, I spent most of my waking hours thinking of what would become of my life – usually negative. I would have frequent conversations with inmates regarding life with a conviction, and the responses I would receive only fed this negativity. However, I had not given up hope! I would regularly be in contact with the Careers Advice Service who would generally try to feather me toward less ambitious career paths – which, although I did not show it, really saddened me.
Towards the end of my time at Belmarsh, a careers event took place which I attended and met Wayne…I could tell this was somebody who really cared… Wayne went above and beyond in ensuring that I was enrolled on courses which would put me on my chosen path… A few months down the line and I am now an apprentice Quantity Surveyor! Without Wayne, my life would be very different indeed…
Wayne is nothing short of a shining beacon of hope to those whose lives are shrouded in darkness and uncertainty – a real testament to humanity.”
Butler Trust Local Champion and Personal Assistant to the Director of Probation, Lisa Payne, says there are many examples of Wayne’s “skills, experience, contacts and tenacity” helping service users into work, training or education. Wayne also works closely with Galvin’s Chance, a project founded by Chris Galvin and Fred Sirieix (of Channel 4’s ‘First Dates’ fame). Around four in five of offenders lucky enough to be in Wayne’s world go on to gain employment with high profile employers such as the Royal Automobile Club.
Wayne gets the small details – easily overlooked by those living more settled lives – that make a difference. From role-playing interviews to help with the awkward ‘reveal’ of a conviction, going to a charity to get “interview clothing”, or helping allay nerves by actually going to the interview with them, “Wayne will do it”, says Lisa. Wayne’s attitude echoes Hillel the Elder’s famous remark “If not you, who? If not now, when?” He describes his unshakeable belief thus: “If we can’t help ex-offenders find work, who else can?”
Jeanine* recalls cancelling her first interview due to a lack of funds. Wayne got her a travel card, re-arranged the interview, and came with her to the interview “for moral support”, as well as getting her the necessary travel expenses from JobCentre Plus. The result: a placement with Skanska, the world’s fifth largest construction company.
“This gave me confidence and experience in a field I could only have dreamed of before, and this is because of the support from Wayne who gave me a chance and believed in me.”
Emma*, another ex-service user, calls Wayne “a positive beacon of light in my corner ever since I was released. You have been encouraging, attentive and supportive in your efforts to help me feel like my usual sunny self. Not only did you introduce me to a well-known company for an interview for a job role, you even referred me to another company that helps unemployed women with clothing for interviews. You have been monumental in making this experience pleasant and enjoyable.”
David Smith, Costain’s Community Engagement Manager, calls Wayne “an inspirational person to work with…the Costain work placement programme wouldn’t be where it is today, without his personal support and input.”
Wayne says he was “over the moon to be nominated by Brian” (and reports that Brian is “thriving”). Wayne, keen to expand his range of sectors and potential employers, is also working with Blue Sky, a recruitment non-profit specialising in finding work for ex-offenders. “As a result”, he reports, “a group of our service users are just about to start training to be bus drivers for a reputable company.”
The impact of Wayne’s work, and the people he helps, is revealed in his own words: “It brings me a great sense of achievement when someone takes on one of our service users…and is so impressed with their work that they later ask me if I have any other candidates.”
* Name changed