Keeping it local

Pilot project brings probation services into the community.

Providing probation services in community buildings is likely to become more common in future and one such pilot project is proving a great success.

It is easy to walk past the door of Hartshorn House without even noticing it, but just off Maesteg’s main street is a community hub providing a host of services for vulnerable people

Even the discreet signage which reads ‘Health and Wellbeing Service’ gives little clue to what lies behind it. But here you can find support for alcohol and drug misuse, for veterans and their families, for victims of domestic violence, the bereaved, the elderly and others.

In March this year it also became home two days a week to Becky Phillips, a Probation Services Officer with Wales CRC who is now able hold probation appointments in the heart of the community. It means that offenders no longer have to spend two hours or more travelling to the probation offices in Bridgend and back and that means they are more likely to keep their appointments.

But there is much more to the community hub approach than compliance alone. At Hartshorn House, funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and Bridgend County Council and run by G4S, offenders can find support from 37 different agencies to help them change their behaviour for the better.

Becky, and Probation Officer Sarah Hopkins, work alongside the Community Drug and Alcohol Team for example and can ensure those who need specialist help get it. Vulnerable women can find help with everything from domestic violence to coping with miscarriage. The networking opportunities mean that agencies can work together seamlessly and there are plans for offenders to join courses such as first aid, sexual health and even energy saving at Hartshorn House.

And all the support is carried out in newly refurbished, bright, airy rooms with a relaxed atmosphere which itself has an impact on the success of our work as Becky explained.

“It is a lot more relaxed, I have a room allocated to me all day and can spend more time with the offenders who need it. They have been more willing to open up about things and let their guard down. If they get upset it doesn’t matter because they aren’t going to see people in the waiting room who they know.

“We are working with Communities First and the Llynfi Valley 20 Project, so called because they say people living here die 20 years early. There are plans to divert people away from drugs by giving them more community activities to do, from gardening to art therapy. There are also plans for cookery lessons, recipe cards and help with foodbanks. The long term goal is for these to be run by people in the community who may have come through problems such as drug misuse themselves and be able to support others do the same,” she said.

Stevie* who is currently on probation for shoplifting offences will be getting help from the Community Drug and Alcohol Team as he tries to come off heroin.

“It’s much better coming here. I don’t have to travel all the way to Bridgend where I bumped into people and ended up using again. It’s a lot more relaxed and I’m going to be getting the help I need,” he said.

*Name changed