When people have committed criminal offences and been convicted in court, they will sometimes receive a sentence to do ‘unpaid work’ in the community. This used to be called Community Service and is now called the Community Payback scheme. A court can order a person aged 18 or over to complete anything between 40 hours to 300 hours over the course of twelve months. Very often people will do these hours at the rate of 7 hours a week whilst still retaining their day job. This is therefore a punishment that supports the local community whilst also not involving an offender losing their job.
The scheme does a great deal of good for the local community. In our area alone it has been calculated that £800,000 worth of work has been completed for free, which significantly benefits the community. This work tends to vary from supporting our parks, all of which locally benefit from the gardening and pruning and foliage clearance that takes place, under supervision, and the participants also feel they are doing something productive. The work also involves things like graffiti clearance, and painting and decorating places like community centres and village halls. The work must be towards supporting the public benefit and not private property.
I was pleased to be invited to visit a work crew in progress at Bradlaugh Fields in Northampton by the team which organises Community Payback. They were clearing overgrown foliage and renovating a footpath, and I spoke to the managers, supervisors and those who had been sentenced to this community punishment, as well as the Park Ranger who was a great enthusiast for the work the teams do in our parks in Northampton.
If you are involved in supporting a public or community space and you feel Community Payback participants could help please contact me and I will put you in touch with the managers.