Tayside Community Justice awards 2017

The Tayside Community Justice Authority (TCJA) held their annual awards ceremony on 9 March at the Malmaison Hotel in Dundee. The awards are intended to recognise work at all levels and acknowledge good work, consistency, effort, achievement, innovation and excellence, which has contributed to the delivery of effective outcomes, performance, and good practice, in Tayside.

Awards for TCA

The OWLS (One-stop Women’s Learning Service) and Perth 16+ project won the Interventions award, Mark Harris, TCA Operations Manager won the Leadership award, our Mentoring Service won the Working in Partnership award, OWLS team members Kirstie and Lucy won the Local Champions award (Perth and Kinross).

Leadership award: Mark Harris

Mark Harris is the Operations Manager for both TCA Mentoring and Children’s mentoring across Tayside. Whilst this nomination focuses on Mark’s role within the TCA Community Justice mentoring services, it is worth noting that the dual areas of responsibility make for a challenging workload, which he manages exceptionally well.

From the outset Mark has provided inspiration and transformative leadership to initiate and develop the mentoring service alongside our partners within Criminal Justice Services (CJS). By thinking outside the box, he has engaged with staff from across the partnership and with the people who use the mentoring service – the mentees – to create an enthusiasm and strong commitment to ongoing review, development and improvement of the service.

For example Mark regularly seeks feedback using different methods for the various stakeholder groups; a simple three question feedback from for referrers and mentors and a series of facilitated focus group meetings for mentees. He then brings people together to explore creative ways to improve the service.

The level of engagement across the whole stakeholder group, including the mentees, ensures that the service remains responsive to the diverse needs of Criminal justice teams and the individual recipients of the mentoring. The following is feedback received from a Team Manager within CJS:

“Working with Mark on mentoring for women has been a very positive experience of working in partnership. He has always demonstrated a strong commitment to and understanding of the mentoring process. He is approachable and always interested to look at ways to make improvements or discuss and resolve any identified issues.

Recently Mark and his team ran a number of focus groups to learn what the women had to say about mentoring, what they valued about the service and what their aspirations were for the future of the service. This feedback will be discussed further at the forthcoming Women’s team development meeting.”

As a manager, Mark has both supported his team in their roles and encourage development of skills, knowledge and confidence. His commitment to upskilling the workforce and enabling staff members to work to their full potential is reflected in the following feedback by the TCA mentors:

“In my experience Mark has been very supportive of me throughout my time with TCA. While he is adept at offering advice/guidance when required, it is perhaps his willingness to support my professional development which I have found to be particularly encouraging. That is to say he recognises my wishes to develop as a practitioner and provides me with extra responsibilities and opportunities to meet these development needs. Added to this, he appears to value my input as well as the work I produce, which in turn motivates and encourages me to maintain and indeed build on the high standards that I set for myself.

In terms of developing mentoring, I would suggest that Mark has worked very hard to ensure that it now has a very high profile with referrers. It has been the case where this service was viewed by some referrers as a ‘glorified taxi service’ but his work in terms of how the service is monitored and reported on has helped to reverse this viewpoint. I also feel that Mark displays a great deal of passion for mentoring which in turn has a motivating and inspirational impact on the mentoring team.”

“I feel Mark has been very supportive to me over the years and encouraged me to develop my skills and grow as a practitioner. He has also encouraged me on numerous occasions to step out of my comfort zone, easily identified my strong points and made me believe in myself. He has made himself available to me at any time to discuss any issues that I may have as our job can be very stressful at times. As a leader he has excelled himself and developed the mentoring programme to a high standard that it is recognised for today. He truly deserves this award. I have 100% respect for him and hold him in high regard.”

“Mark is a really good listener. He keeps you on track and focused but lets you breathe and develop at the same time. This style of management has helped me grow as a mentor and counsellor. It’s not easy at times, but you feel there is always someone there to listen to you when it gets tough.”

Intervention award: Teodor Omelasz

The 16+ Mentoring Project provides mentoring interventions for males across Perth and Kinross who have current criminal justice involvement. As the project title suggests, the age range of participants is 16 years or over and while individuals are referred to the service for the primary purpose of reducing reoffending, it achieves this through a holistic approach, which addresses the contributing factors which may lead to further offending.

These factors include, but are not limited to, substance use, social isolation, accommodation issues, financial issues as well as problematic peer and family relationships. Although the project has been successful it is perhaps its ability to meaningfully engage with those who have committed offences of a sexual nature which distinguishes it from other mentoring projects. Those those who have committed offences of this nature often present further challenges in terms of their participation in the 16+ project due to the conditions they are expected to comply with; conditions that limit social inclusion. It is also the case that these same individuals are typically rejected by the communities they reside in, often to the point of demonization.

While complying with all imposed conditions and experiencing social rejection can lead to a deterioration of social skills, confidence and self-esteem as well as feelings of self-loathing and fear; there remains the added risk that failure to integrate or reintegrate into community life may result in further offending. However, it is further recognised that conditions also serve to reduce the risk of further offending while protecting members of public, particularly those who match the profile of the individual’s previous victims.

The creativity that mentors display in identifying suitable social activities and their ability to work with the individual to effectively manage negative public perception means that social rejection and the necessary barriers that conditions present can be overcome. This is something that the mentor involved in this project, Teo, has proven to be adept at. He has consistently displayed the ability to develop good working relationships with the individuals he works with, providing appropriate support, advocacy and encouragement, which is situated within the pro-social model. He has also displayed an in-depth understanding of the complexities surrounding the work he does with those who are registered sex offenders.

This knowledge allows Teo to work confidently within the confines of licence conditions that these individuals may be subject to. Another aspect to his role is the good relationships he has developed and maintained with referrers at Criminal Justice Services. This has resulted in referrers having complete confidence in the mentor’s ability to work effectively as part of a support team where he understands the need to provide regular feedback, particularly in relation to those who are registered sex offenders.

Partnership award: TCA Mentoring Service

In considering the partnership between Tayside Council on Alcohol and CJS, it should be noted that its effectiveness is based on a process of continuous development and a willingness to overcome any challenges that may be experienced. Both agencies utilise a simple three question review which places emphasis on areas which may be regarded as central to productive and effective partnership working. These areas take in to account the functionality of communication between both agencies as well as identifying what has worked and where improvements can be made.

The feedback from these questionnaires has enabled the partnership to identify and address any issues or problems quickly which in turn has further cemented the relationship between agencies. This willingness to improve the standard of partnership working has resulted in various developments which have not only enhanced the partnership, but also the experience of the individuals we work with.

Among these developments is the implementation of a three way meeting between CJS worker, TCA Mentor and client at initial referral. These meetings allow for the role of each worker to be clarified as well as helping to identify client goals and areas where workers can provide support to the client.

They also signal the beginning of a trusting working relationship between client and TCA Mentor, a relationship based on the client’s expressed needs and wishes. This level of transparency reinforces to the client that they and the goals they have set are the primary focus of the work we do.

Local Champions award: Kirstie and Lucy

Kirstie and Lucy are two very inspirational ladies and have made huge changes to their life. Kirstie was first referred to OWLS four years ago and was one of the first clients for OWLS and TCA mentoring. Her journey is extraordinary; she completed her CPO and now attends OWLS voluntarily as a Peer Mentor. She supports women in the centre and buddies women sharing her own experiences to help others.

Lucy has worked with TCA mentoring for two years and has made tremendous changes to her lifestyle. She is now attending college, working as a volunteer and has completed various courses with the Venture Trust.

Both Kirstie and Lucy attended the Scottish Mentoring Network to speak about their experiences and share their stories. The feedback from this event was amazing and both girls were highly commended.