While under lockdown, there has been a significant increase in the backlog of community payback hours needing to be completed and without access to face to face projects for much of the year, a new solution has needed to be devised.
Project in a Box has been launched with the intention of helping service users complete their community payback hours while under lockdown. Trialled in December in London Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), Project in a Box sees service users delivered a box containing a craft project that can be completed from home.
Rolling out across London CRC
Starting with a trial of 55 service users, boxes were sent containing the materials to make nine facemasks each, with a two week time limit. Completing one box would equal 13.5 hours of community payback time and participating service users were carefully selected as those of lower risk. The trial ended with 60 per cent compliance and was expanded across five other teams in London CRC, including community cases. A support line, operating seven days a week, has been created to help service users who require assistance while completing the project.
The completed face masks have then been shared with beneficiaries including the Metropolitan Police, and the custody suites in the North East of London. Currently around 2,000 facemasks have been sent here, provided to anyone released from custody without a mask.
“A great initiative”
Looking forwards, the Project in a Box now includes new projects, such as creating cards for service users in custody, encouraging them to keep in touch with loved ones during increased visit restrictions. Between December and February in London CRC, 359 boxes have been returned by service users, totalling 4,835 hours completed of community payback.
One service user said “it is such a great initiative, given the times we are all in. [I’m] really happy that I am helping somebody out there.”
Deputy Head of Community Payback Operations, Jo White, said “this will be something that is continued alongside other in-person projects [when projects reopen]. It can be used to complement group project delivery – issued to lower risk service users and ensuring those whose risks and complexities are more significant are supervised face to face. The backlog of lockdown is so significant that we need this project to make a dent in it.”
Embedded in Thames Valley CRC
Project in a Box has been similarly rolled out in Thames Valley CRC too, with service users completing facemasks within a set period of time in order to meet their community payback hours.
In Thames Valley CRC alone, the Project in a Box scheme accounts for almost a third of community payback hours being completed under lockdown. They are now looking at other projects, including creating cards for seasonal events such as International Women’s Day and Easter. “We’re looking at upcoming events,” said Senior Probation Officer Helen Morris, “and tailoring the cards to those events.
“Going forward it can be suitable for anyone (risk providing). It’s a great project for all our service users – enabling completion of their hours in a constructive, meaningful way.”