A scheme whereby offenders carrying out unpaid work as part of community court sentencing working for the benefit of the public across the countryside of Worcestershire is to be extended.
The scheme will be extended for a further 3 years because it has proved to be so successful. The new Community Payback Partnership Scheme agreement between Worcestershire County Council and Warwickshire and West Mercia Community Rehabilitation Company was brokered between the Council's Countryside Service, Highways, and the rehabilitation company and comes into play on April 1, 2015.
Previous partnerships were so effective that this has been extended twice already. Now entering its fourth phase, the partnership will run until March 2018 to include the County Council's Highways. To enable offenders to carry out their duties across the county the team, who are based out of the Countryside Centre, have their own specially adapted vehicle with facilities and are trained and supervised by experienced personnel.
The work is part of a county-wide initiative to improve country parks, nature reserves, public rights of way, community greenspaces and highways. Work includes clearing vegetation, installing stiles/gates/fingerposts/fencing, improving path surfacing, drainage, installing signage, clearing fly-tipping; tasks that would not otherwise get done within normal resources.
Cllr. Lucy Hodgson, Cabinet Member for Localism and Communities, said: "This partnership was first established in 2008 and it's great to see it continue. Offenders are required to do this kind of positive community work as part of their sentence and that the Countryside Service has an important role to play in facilitating this. This is not only good for local communities because local facilities are improved, but also because it contributes to a reduction in re-offending. Moreover, there is some economic benefit to the County in that offenders contribute approximately 7,900 hours of work per year, equivalent to a net income to the Council of circa £35,000 per annum."
Liz Stafford, Chief Executive of The Warwickshire & West Mercia Community Rehabilitation Company Limited, commented: "The benefit of Community Payback to the offenders is that if they are in work they are able to continue their employment and they are also able to maintain their personal relationships, neither of which would be possible if they were given a custodial sentence. However, more importantly, for some offenders it helps them on the way to adopting a more positive crime-free lifestyle which ultimately benefits society as a whole."
One of the projects for the Community Payback group will be to continue their scrub clearance work on Hartlebury Common using a variety of tools and equipment. This work is contributing towards the restoration of a heathland Site of Special Scientific Interest, and enhances public access and reduces anti-social behaviour on that site by opening up sight lines.