Community Payback teams are making a big difference in our neighbourhoods
AN INITIATIVE to rehabilitate offenders is having a dramatic impact on the environment in and around Downend.
Community Payback involves groups of between six and eight adults getting stuck into various tasks such as litter picking, hedge and tree trimming and even painting and decorating.
So far many organisations across the area have benefited from the programme, including Mangotsfield Scouts, Stanbridge Primary School, Cleve Rugby Club and Mangotsfield Football Club.
Rodway Common, Northcote Road, Barley Close field and lanes around Mangotsfield School have also undergone transformations.
The scheme is run by the Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset & Wiltshire Community Rehabilitation Company, formerly known as the Probation Trust.
Work in Downend and Mangotsfield came about after discussions between Community Payback project manager Christian Matthews and Rodway ward councillor Michael Bell.
Mr Matthews, who lives in Downend, said: “Service users have come through the court process and have been handed down hours - anything between 40 and 300 hours which they need to complete in the community. It’s my job to make sure they are doing worthwhile projects for mostly non-profit making charitable organisations.
“It has to be engaging for the service user as well as making a difference to the public.”
Other work carried out by service users includes graffiti removal, clearing fly tipping sites, cutting back vegetation on footpaths and cycle-paths and clearing up after events and festivals.
Mr Matthews said service users wear distinctive orange tabards which give the public confidence in the Community Payback programme.
“We’re highly visible which means the public can see what we’re doing rather than just seeing a bunch of people who could be anybody. The tabards were introduced about six years ago and have been successful as we now get approached by the public. It’s been much more positive than negative and is all about the tax-payer seeing what we are doing.”
Mr Matthews said as well as helping improve the local environment, the programme is also improving service users’ job prospects.
“We try to keep projects as simple as possible and never start a job we can’t finish. Some people who are on our books have not worked for some time or have never worked so we like to get people back into the work ethic. It’s about them reporting somewhere at a certain time of the day, doing a full day’s work and having that camaraderie with others that working as a team brings.
“We’ve worked at some sites where organisations have gone on to employ people and others gain work skills by working alongside people with specific skills. It also gives them confidence.
“We try to make sure that when people are with us, they are getting something valuable out of it. We hope the public can see what we are doing and they get something out of it too.”
Mr Matthews would like members of the public to nominate possible sites in South Gloucestershire or Bristol which could be tackled in the future.
You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Bell is also keen to hear from residents who would like to get involved with council litter picks in the Rodway ward which will be organised in the spring. If you are willing to help, contact Cllr Bell on 0787 5631817 or email email@example.com