Double benefit of paying back the local community

Husband and wife Brian and Isabel Paterson who tend the plants at Gorebridge Railway station, which was transformed by the community payback team, formerly known as community service.
Husband and wife Brian and Isabel Paterson who tend the plants at Gorebridge Railway station, which was transformed by the community payback team, formerly known as community service.

The Midlothian Community Payback team continues to make a difference to organisations across the county and is looking for more groups needing a helping hand to get in touch.

Midlothian Council’s Community Payback-Unpaid Work Team works with people who have committed an offence and are the subject of a Community Payback Order. That can mean that as part of their sentence they may have to complete unpaid work.

Unpaid work officer Stuart Pratt, one of three full time supervisors in Midlothian, explained more about the seven day service.

He said: “We speak to the people sent to us to find a suitable place out in the community or working in our workshop, or if deemed suitable they would maybe go to work in a charity shop.

“Our groups in the community are supervised by an unpaid work supervisor. They effectively manage the clients on a day to day basis while on placement. The two unpaid work officers manage the day to day running of the service supporting the unpaid work supervisors to do their job.

“In our workshop we make a lot of furniture for nurseries within Midlothian. We have done work for Sure Start, Stepping Forward in Penicuik and Family Reachout in Mayfield. We get a lot of referrals from a lot of community groups, schools and also through our system, mental health etc. There is always work.”

Despite admitting his teams are busy, Stuart is keen to help more organisations.

He said: “We would like to do more work with local groups. The perfect example of that was the station adopters in Gorebridge.

“Going forward we have been contacted by the Dalkeith Rotary Club who have taken on Eskbank Station. We are at a very early stage of working with them. Whatever their needs are we will help them.

“It’s a lot of work to get a station up and running, looking good. So once we get in and do our work they will just take on the running and maintenance afterwards.”

Stuart is keen to change public perceptions of community payback teams, highlighting the rehabilitation affect is has on the people carrying out the unpaid work.

He said: “The issue we have is perception. The more of our work we publicise the better.

“It can be quite a daunting thing for groups to engage with us if they do have that perception. We are trying to change that, which is why we want to do more work alongside community groups and residents groups. We are here to help and we can do some good work in the community, we shouldn’t be hidden away.

“The unpaid workers benefit as well, that’s what it’s all about. Our remit is to reduce the chance of people re-offending. The research is there, people that complete community payback orders are more unlikely to re-offend.

“That sets the platform of reintegrating them back into society.”

One of the local groups to benefit from the Midlothian Community Payback team has been the Gorebridge Railway Station Adopters.
During the summer a team of four spent a day working at the station putting up planters and laying down bark.
Brian Patterson from the station adopters said: “It made a tremendous difference. We would have been looking at big costs for what we wanted to do with planters but they did it all for nothing, all from recycled pallets.
“They gave us the labour and the materials, we then just had to fill them with plants.
“They also split the bark and spread it out which was a big job.
“That’s all work we would have had to do, and buying bark isn’t cheap, so that was another thing they did for us for free. I think it came from the council.
“It lets us get on, we have four volunteers at the station so for us to do that work it would have been difficult and taken a lot longer than the four hours it took them, they saved us a lot of really hard work.”

Brian is keen to work with the payback team again, he said:“I’m hoping we get more bark and Stuart has told me we can get more when it becomes available.
“He is always looking for more work so we are looking to get them to do work at the back of the station as well.
“Their work ethic is second to none as far as we are concerned. The enthusiasm they showed was unbelievable, we had to tell them to slow down, they were just so keen to do the work.
“You can see it helps them as well, gets them integrating with the local community and working on something that benefits the local area. It builds their confidence and I’m sure they will learn new skills along the way, so it’s doubly beneficial I think.”
To contact the payback team about a project email communitypayback@midlothian.gov.uk or call 0131 271 3860.