Sunday, March 01, 2009

Unpaid What?

A few weeks ago I spent a few hours at the local offices of a well-known charity. During a break in the meeting I asked the manager if she had ever considered applying for people on Unpaid Work orders to come and do tasks around the place. She pulled a face, and said: "We tried it a couple of years ago, but after the second day we gave up. We won't have them back". "Why?" I enquired. "Well, they were all young lads, and they had a poor attitude. Some of them treated it as a bit of a laugh, and there were always a group of them hanging about in the kitchen or the toilets. I found them intimidating, and several female staff complained of harassing remarks. I felt uncomfortable myself. The supervisor seemed to have no real control over them, so they spent most of the day hanging around with their hands in their pockets". I have no reason to doubt the lady, and I find this worrying. It is a truism that sentencers will not use community sentences unless they can be confident that they are properly managed, which was not the case here.
Despite repeated requests I have not been able to visit a work project since the early Nineties, so if any friendly probation officer out there wants to ask me along one Saturday, I shall be delighted to come.

Later: The issue is, by coincidence, in today's news.

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