Offenders’payback’ community with headstone restoration work

A project which makes offenders pay for their crimes by carrying out unpaid work in the community, marks its 40th anniversary this week.

Previously known as Community Service and Community Punishment, in 2005 the scheme was rebranded and is now known as Community Payback.

Community Payback scheme feature. Working on restoring fallen and loose headstones in Dean Road cemetary. Photo by Andrew Higgins 124663a 18/11/12

Community Payback scheme feature. Working on restoring fallen and loose headstones in Dean Road cemetary. Photo by Andrew Higgins 124663a 18/11/12

The York and North Yorkshire Probation Trust, which includes Scarborough’s teams, has worked in partnership with Scarborough Borough Council for the past year, to carry out manual unpaid tasks for the benefit of the Scarborough, Filey and Whitby communities.

Work carried out by the teams have included painting railings in Albemarle Crescent, public toilets, seafront railings in the three towns and play park furniture in various locations.

Scarborough and Ryedale Community Payback unit manager Karl Parkin said that an ongoing project, to lift and repair 6,000 broken headstones in the town, was proving beneficial for both service users and residents.

He said: “The sentence is successful because it produces measurable results.

“It’s a very technical project that is greatly appreciated. The work is physically demanding, it is primarily a punishment but at the same time we try to teach people work-related skills, problem solving and also to give them the opportunity to make reparation to the community they’ve offended against.

“It’s work that would otherwise not be done by paid employees as there wouldn’t be the resources or the finance to do it.”

Around 80 per cent of offenders complete their sentence and last year saw 988 service users fulfil theirs, working on more than 100 projects throughout the region.

Geoff Lynch, 49, who is currently working on the headstone project in Dean Road Cemetery said: “Most of us are working lads who’ve come off the rails a little bit and got ourselves into trouble, this does teach us a lot.

“A lot of people say ‘you’ve done a wonderful job’. It’s fantastic way to do things, you realise how important things like these are to people.

“It’s given a lot of young lads who haven’t a lot of confidence something to do and keeps them out of trouble as well.”

Twenty-four year old Simon Smith added that, after working on the headstone project for the past few months, “I could see myself coming back and volunteering”.

Ages of service users range from 16 at the youngest, while last year, the oldest offender to work on the gravestone project was 72.

Roger Burnett, the council’s community environment officer, added: “We provide tasks, materials and logistical support for the payback teams and we make sure tasks are done to suitable standards.

“Scarborough Borough Council in Partnership with Community Payback has been shortlisted for the Local Government Association Making a Difference to the Environment Award along with another four projects.”

Earlier this year the partnership won Outstanding Achievement for work done for Scarborough and Filey in Bloom.

Results of the government award will be announced next month.