Offenders complete more unpaid work

Convicted offenders completed almost 5,800 hours of unpaid work during the last financial year – around 600 more than in 2012/13.

Unpaid work orders resulted in people painting and decorating, beach clearing, collecting litter and grass cutting.

That helped raise the finished work to 5,790 hours, compared with 5,196 in 2012/13.

But the statistics do not point to an increase in reported crime. The latest figures show a drop in unpaid work requirements compared with last year – down to 34 in 2013/14 compared with 40 in the previous year.

The sheriff called for a slightly higher number of social work reports last year than he did in 2012/13 – 115 versus 112. But those are still way down on 2011/12, when the introduction of the then new Community Payback Order system led to a peak in referrals. At that time, social workers were kept busy preparing 169 reports. There were 73 unpaid work requirements.

The number of supervision requirements has remained largely stable, at 31 compared with last year’s tally of 34. Again, those are down considerably from the peak year of 2011/12, when the figure stood at 54. Supervision included behaviour programmes aimed at addressing alcohol and drug issues, anger management, life skills, employability and sexual offending.

The figures have been released in an annual report prepared by Shetland Islands Council’s chief social work officer, Hughina Leslie, which is due to go before members of Wednesday’s Education and Families Committee in the town hall.

It highlights the Nesting Chapel as having benefited from a lick of paint, along with kirks in Weisdale, Bressay and Burra. The Burra public hall was also spruced up, as well as the halls in Cunningsburgh and Walls and the Hoswick Visitors Centre.

Ground clearance was carried out in Dunrossness, a beach path was reinstated and the fence at Walls community garden was painted.

Individual placements took place at Cope Ltd. Volunteers gave their time to help in the preparation of food and clothes banks at the Salvation Army, while other work was done on behalf of the British Red Cross and Shetland Amenity Trust.

The report states: “The Shetland community continue to value the assistance given and thank you letters are received from recipients who are always very pleased with the standard of work.

“Offenders speak positively of undertaking unpaid work and state that they enjoy being able to complete a piece of work to pay back for their crime and that they learn new skills which they can take to paid working environments.”

The report also highlights the issues experienced in delivering social work services in remote communities.

“For specialist services, such as inpatient psychiatric services and residential school provision, Shetland uses mainland Scotland providers and this can also present a challenge to access. All travel can frequently be disrupted by adverse weather conditions such as fog and gale force winds.”

Another ongoing issue being felt is with difficulties in recruitment – something which has already been highlighted in other council services, due to better deals on offer for workers in the private sector, particularly in the lucrative oil and gas sector.

“Recent attempts at recruiting, particularly for relief social care workers in adult resources, have not been successful.

“Cleaning and catering staff have also been difficult to recruit and it is believed that the gas and oil industry is paying increased rates for manual workers.”

The council has already devised a trainee social worker scheme in an attempt to overcome the difficulties. The report describes the scheme as having been “very successful”.


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