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PROBLEM-SOLVING INITIATIVE LAUNCHED

PROBLEM-SOLVING INITIATIVE LAUNCHED TO HELP OFFENDERS MAKE CHANGES

A TEESSIDE Welfare-to-Work initiative has extended its support network to work with a local Community Justice Initiative.

Pertemps People Development Group (PPDG) embarked on its joint problem solving initiative in East Middlesbrough to work with people convicted of minor offences to help identify and tackle issues that contribute to their offending such as drug-taking, family problems and homelessness.

PPDGs coaches visit the Community Justice Court, within Teesside Magistrates Court, twice a week to help offenders carry out a self-assessment questionnaire, which identifies areas where they need additional help.

Once these issues are outlined, PPDG coaches look to signpost the offenders to available help, which may include training and employment support, help to find a home and medical support to tackle drug or alcohol addiction.

The support came about after PPDG met with the East Middlesbrough Community Justice Initiative who had recognised that there was a need to provide this support but, due to limited funding, they could not provide the resource themselves.

Staff from PPDGs Thorntree office stepped in and the problem solving approach has already proven a huge success with magistrates and court staff being impressed with the results so far. So much so that the process has been embedded in the day-to-day business of the Community Court.

Nikki Hunt, from PPDG in Thorntree, said: This is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. Working with people, who ordinarily may not be given the support they need and helping them make positive steps to turn their life around is very fulfilling.

The people supported include parents who have been fined due to their childs poor school attendance or people who have committed minor offences who may have issues with drugs or unemployment. Twelve people have been helped so far, thanks to the initiative.

At the outset we work with offenders and we are quick to identify patterns, underlying problems or areas that led to them committing an offence, said Ms Hunt.

This enables us, due to our knowledge of products and services available, to create a bridge of support for people, which encourages them to minimise or even eliminate the issues they faced.

One example of the initiatives success stories is a mother of three from Brambles Farm, who was in court for her daughters truancy at school. The community court advisor instigated a common assessment framework as there were some concerns regarding child protection around the daughter.

Thanks to the assessment the daughter is now engaging with an alcohol agency in the region and the community court advisor has kept involved with meetings at the school, which have been held in an attempt to improve attendance.

Allison Pitt Community Justice Initiative Project Coordinator was involved in engaging with PPDG and is delighted at the success so far: Problem Solving is a very proactive approach to engaging with a section of our society who face specific challenges in order to improve their way of life or change the negative cycle they are in. There is an opportunity to potentially reduce the risk of a defendant offending again which can only be good news for the East Middlesbrough community.

The help PPDG provides is invaluable as it enables offenders to gain pathways to key support which may not have otherwise been made available to them. This helps to boost their self-esteem, which in turn enables them feel empowered to make and maintain the necessary changes in their life.

Chairman of the Community Justice Court, Carole Freeman Dunn, said: Our collaborative work with PPDG is yet another community justice success story, which enabled us to meet one of the eight challenges originally set down in Solving Problems, Finding Solutions.

All of the defendants helped by this scheme have committed offences in East Middlesbrough, and by addressing the root problems that trigger their criminal behaviour, we are reducing considerably the risk of their re-offending. This in turn helps us deliver on the promise we have made to the people in East Middlesbrough, to make a difference to their lives.

I have been impressed by the professional approach of the coaches, the way they have enthusiastically embraced their new task, and the positive benefit their work is bringing to the Community Justice Court. I also know the defendants themselves are extremely grateful that assistance is being given to help them address their problems and turn their lives around.

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