Building community links

Church members in Powys have praised offenders who repaired an important part of their grounds.
The teams, carrying out unpaid work with the Wales Community Rehabilitation Company as part of their community sentences, rebuilt 10m of collapsed stone wall at St Edward's Church, Knighton.

St Edward's treasurer John Watson said: “We’re delighted by this work under the Community Payback scheme. The offenders were motivated and inspired by their supervisor and they gained personal esteem and a sense of achievement.

“As a church council we’d spent a long time trying to work out how we could pay for these repairs so this project was very welcome.”

Before starting the work Community Payback supervisor Rod Evans, of the Wales Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), took advice from local stonemason Keith Jones. He took a course to learn the skills needed to rebuild the wall then trained a team of offenders to work on the project.

Rod Evans said: “This was a substantial project and my team found it really rewarding; they have contributed positively to the Knighton community and the experience will stand them and the church in good stead for the future.”

Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon said: “This shows how justice can be delivered locally and effectively. Offenders can put right their wrong, gain skills and improve life for communities too.

“I encourage the people of Dyfed-Powys to nominate other community projects which could benefit from Community Payback.”

Dave Fields, team manager at Wales CRC’s Dyfed-Powys Local Delivery Unit, said: “Community Payback allows offenders to learn skills for employment, encouraging them to behave in a positive and law-abiding way.

“It reduces reoffending, makes communities safer, and increases self-confidence and civic pride.

“I’m glad that church members were pleased with this project.”

The west side of the St Edward's churchyard collapsed along a 10m stretch some years ago and the church council had worried about how to fund the repair.

Knighton Town Council contributed £1,000 towards the cost of buying 32 tons of stone and lime mortar and Wales CRC provided the unpaid labour.

Members began discussing Community Payback with the CRC in the summer. Within three weeks, an assessment had been carried out and a team put together to repair the lime mortar wall which is thought to be more than a century old.

Mr Watson said: “Local residents and passers-by have told us how much better the wall now looks. Those who know about wall-building say the men have done a proper job.”

Mr Fields said: “Community Payback is all about offenders working to make Wales safer and cleaner. Offenders carry out their work in small groups, with a supervisor, or in individual placements hosted mainly by voluntary or charitable organisations or social enterprises. Offenders are carefully assessed beforehand and public protection is the overriding consideration.”

Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, the Rt Rev John Davies, congratulated all concerned on the work done at St Edward’s. 

He said: “I was present at a service in Knighton in early October and was able to see the work in progress and to congratulate those responsible for it.

“The Community Payback scheme gives to those who work within it opportunity to contribute something really worthwhile. I hope very much that it helps them develop for themselves a greater sense of self worth and self esteem.”