Community Justice Scotland: New training course for people involved in the delivery of unpaid work
Community Justice Scotland’s Learning, Development and Innovation Lead James Murphy explains the importance of training front line workers to support people completing Community Payback Orders.
Local authority staff who work on the front line supporting people to complete their Community Payback Orders play an essential role in making sure these sentences are successful. They have the potential to improve lives and communities by reducing re-offending. For people who’ve been in conflict with the law, unpaid work offers the opportunity to give back to the local community.
Following a training needs assessment by Community Justice Scotland involving all local authorities, we discovered there was a real need for national and standard training for this group of staff. Before this there had been no specific training around Unpaid Work. Along with my colleagues Scott Smith and Fiona Cameron, we were tasked with developing a specialised course tailored to those working in this area.
We piloted a new 5-day course, which was welcomed by Social Work Scotland, before starting a national roll out in July 2023.
Initial feedback from the courses has been positive and a consistent message from our learners is how they feel this opportunity for learning is long overdue. We’re really proud to support an essential group of workers within social work services. Ultimately, the aim of the project is better outcomes for people completing a Community Payback Order.
One of the key principles of adult learning is the learner identifying their own needs. The course provides ample opportunity for reflection and we are delighted that learners, in the main, identify that the five days are too short and they want more!
Unpaid Work is the most common requirement of a Community Payback Order. As well as giving people the chance to give something back for the harm they’ve caused, it holds people accountable for their actions and research shows it can help prevent re-offending. It could involve work that improves an area in their community and, crucially, working at change which can give people the chance to learn new skills which could help them in future, particularly in areas such as employment.
The people who have completed the course tell us that it will have a positive impact on the way that they work, especially how they support people to complete their Community Payback Order.
One course participant told us: “I feel the course met my needs very well and has affirmed what I already knew about unpaid work and my role within, but also gave me an insight into how other local authorities work and hopefully this will improve my own skillset.”
The five-day training for people involved in the delivery of Unpaid Work is closely connected to social work theory. There are nine modules: values, community payback orders, trauma awareness, formal writing/case recording, drug & alcohol awareness, diversity, coaching & mentoring, motivational interviewing and pro-social modelling. These are closely aligned to the aims and outcomes of Scottish Qualifications Authority modules. This allows trainees to continue their development with a recognised qualification, if they choose to do so.
The training is available for anyone involved in the delivery of Unpaid Work in Scotland. So far, we’ve welcomed staff with many regional variations on job titles but all are involved in helping people to complete their Community Payback Orders. In some areas managers have attended the training.
We see the training as continuous professional development for a staff group who are at times carrying out a very difficult job. By January 2024 we will have delivered this course to delegates from all 32 local authorities in Scotland.
It's really beneficial to have different local areas coming together for the training as this means we can generate discussion, share good practice and champion successful projects. We have seen this improve and diversify services across the country since we started.
Since the pilot we have developed a Training for Trainers Course and a National Trainers’ Group, to improve the sustainability of the course. More local trainers means we can make the training more widely available.
The evidence base for the impact of Unpaid Work is still in development. A recent publication from England and Wales, The Future of Unpaid Work Payback with a Purpose (Centre for Justice Innovation, June 2022), spotlights for us two key areas for development in terms of our delivery of this training. These are firstly, challenging the perception of Unpaid Work services as the “Cinderella” of the justice landscape and secondly, providing workers with skills that are known to support positive change for people serving their sentence in the community. The report highlights pro-social modelling as a key example and we’ve incorporated this into our training alongside other fundamental skills to support effective interventions.
As a trainer, it’s so rewarding to hear about projects that are really worthwhile. Often that involves helping people to build new skills while they also restore places and services which are of benefit to the community. Those helping to deliver Unpaid Work can play a pivotal role in making sure that it is purposeful work. It’s great to see projects that are diverse enough to allow for individual needs and circumstances that also model positive behaviours for those carrying out the work.
We’re delighted that we’re able to support those working to deliver Unpaid Work with the training they need, and we hope this will also improve the life chances of the people they’re helping to complete their sentences. One comment from a trainee really resonates with me when reflecting on this aim: “I feel I’ve been watered; I’ve got a better outlook with some good ideas.”
As we continue to roll out the training across Scotland I’ll make sure that I take that sense of optimism and creativity with me.