My First Year as a BA (Hons) Criminal Justice with Offender Management student

Debbie Ball is a Level Four student on our Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree. She has written a blog piece explaining why she chose to study with us and how the degree will help her career. 

In September 2019 I became a mature student of the Criminal Justice with Offender Management course (CJWOM). I have worked for several local agencies for over 10 years across the city. I have worked for many years for a drug treatment service and in the housing sector working to find suitable accommodation for newly released prisoners. I have been privileged to have worked closely with the local prisons, probation service and other third sector agencies in my professional career.

My decision to apply for the CJWOM course was influenced by a female probation officer that I worked closely with to house a vulnerable gentleman with complex needs. This proved to be a difficult task due to his criminal record and complex needs, unfortunately before we managed to find housing for the gentleman he sadly passed away. This experience had a profound effect on me, I felt that I wanted to be able to make a real difference and had a passion for rehabilitation and supporting people wanting an opportunity for change. Working in the public sector can be very rewarding but also very sad, the clients I have worked with have been my greatest teachers over the years but felt that it was now the right time to cement my experiences into academic knowledge.

The Course Leader, Louis Martin, spoke at the open day for the course about gaining experience in the criminal justice sector as he felt that this would help build skills and gain experience. Due to my working relationship with the female probation officer I had previously worked with, I contacted her regarding returning to university and she encouraged me to apply to work at the national probation service approved premises as a sessional worker.

A sessional residential worker is paid employment and you are required to cover shifts for sickness, annual leave or general staff absence. The role includes supporting people with every day requests, general admin and a close multi agency approach with the police, probation and PPU (Public Protection Unit) and more.
An approved premise is for high risk offenders who been assigned to live at an address owned by probation services as part of a licence agreement on their release from prison. Some residents can be released to the premises as part of a ROTL (release on temporary licence) short stay, an alternative to a recall to prison or a longer stay to ensure integration back into society. There are several approved premises located across the west midlands and by becoming a sessional worker I could choose my location, hours and days to fit around my university studies.

The application and clearance/vetting stages are both lengthy processes which I began in June 2019 and finally received my clearance in October 2019, the process includes a DBS and background check. I completed a number of shadow shifts as requested by the approved premises manager over a number of weeks for training purposes and to get a feel for how the AP operates before I was able to complete a shift as a full sessional worker.

I have been at the AP now for 3 months and really enjoy it, it can be challenging and complex at times and I am sure there are a lot of misconceptions regarding violence and the environment but in my own experience I have not found this to be the case. Working at the approved premises has given me a good insight to the probation service but I still have a lot to learn.

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