Offenders set to work in parks

Government proposal will see jobless criminals do hard manual labour to pay back communities.

Parks cuts could hinder Government plans to extend the amount of time unemployed offenders carry out manual labour in parks and open spaces under the Community Payback scheme, green space experts have warned.

At present, convicted criminals may only be ordered to carry out a minimum of six hours' work a week. But under new proposals, out-of-work offenders will be made to undertake a full working week, with four days of unpaid "hard manual labour" and one day job seeking.

Work under the revised scheme will include improvements to public areas, such as clearing litter and graffiti, as well as maintaining parks and green spaces.

GreenSpace business development manager Dave Tibbatts said many parks teams had worked successfully with offenders on restorative justice programmes in the past.

But he pointed out that shrinking resources in the sector could affect the scheme's future success.

"The loss of staff and reducing capacity within the sector may impact on our ability to ensure that Community Payback programmes within green spaces work as well as they can," he warned.

Amenity Forum chair John Moverley said that although the idea was laudable, it could need a lot of resources. "Local authorities are already under pressure and it must be recognised that this type of scheme will require more time and supervision."

Moverley also raised concern over the potential lack of skills. "A lot of work in parks is highly skilled. We already have quite a number of cowboys in the industry in terms of health and safety standards and we wouldn't want to see even more, so the programme should also teach new skills," he added.

Full Working Week

"The public want to see offenders giving something back to their communities but they are rightly not satisfied with seeing only a handful of hours a week dished out. Decent law-abiding people can work a full five-day week and so should offenders."

Crispin Blunt, Prisons and probation minister.

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