Supporting the Probation Service During COVID-19

Farida Zerglanie is a Criminal Justice with Offender Management student who is volunteering for Change Grow Live (CGL) and working at HMP Foston Hall with the resettlement Team. She has written a blog on her experiences of volunteering under COVID-19 conditions.

Change Grow Live (CGL) is a charity funded by councils and local authorities to support the Probation Service.  I have been a part of CGL since November 2019, after beginning my [Criminal Justice with] Offender Management course at Staffordshire University. I was soon made aware of CGL by several students who were volunteers from Staffordshire University. Some of the Level Five students were already in fully paid managing roles; their successful reputation was admirable. I knew that getting involved with this organisation would enhance my knowledge and skills. In only a short time I have taken part in various support strategies, such as ‘Through the Gate’ which entails greeting the prisoners being released (service user) at the gate of various prisons in Staffordshire and South Derbyshire. My role as a volunteer is to support people who have been released from prison and take them home or to the Probation Centre. We then support them as they reintegrate back into the community; each case is tailored individually to meet the needs of our service users.

We have all been placed under restrictions in this current pandemic, and this has affected our positions, roles, activities and social contact. This seems to be the new norm for our society currently. At CGL we are aware that our support is crucial for people being released in these difficult times; our continued support is a necessity to many. We feel that our service users rely on our effective through-the-gate support.

Other students and I have continued our volunteering duties in supporting people through this pandemic. We have successfully continued to provide the support that our service users require, to the best of our ability. We have been following Government guidelines and taken the appropriate safety precautions, such as adopting social distancing and wearing PPE whilst providing support to our service users. Staff from CGL have temporarily stopped escorting in vehicles to maintain the two meters social distancing and adhere to Government guidelines.

However, we have continued the travelling assistance support and the community support with adjustments. This has been achieved by the CGL team applying safety measures in place for volunteers, to continue providing support to service users ‘in and out’ of custody as safely and effective as possible. Measures such as on the day of release volunteers have been waiting for the service user at the visitation centre, where once released they are greeted maintaining a two-metre social distance, wearing PPE as per the Government guidelines.

The volunteers give the released prison a mask, a bus pass with unlimited travel, and an email address, to pass on to their probation officer if they require any support in the community. The re- settlement team have adapted new measures to maintain Government guidelines and follow legal requirements that the ex-offender must abide by following licence conditions. In addition to being greeted by the volunteer, a member of the re-settlement team is also present to provide a telephone to maintain contact with the allocated Probation Officer, which would also then be used to communicate with the volunteer offering community support.

All the students who are part of CGL will continue to volunteer under these challenging circumstances as we feel that we provide a crucial but not well publicised service to the community.


Bear with a Care – Chapter 8

Let’s find out how Divoc, Margie and Tootsie have been getting on since last week.

Time for Tootsie’s weigh-in

Weaning starts

Tootsie is getting big now

What’s going on here?

Bake Sale!

Sunday jobs

Astronomy lessons with Daddy Bear

The link to the Donna Louise Hospice Care is here for Facebook and here for Just Giving, if you would like to help Kath’s Bears with a Care raise money.

Check out the blog every Monday for your weekly update of Bear with a Care.

Step Up to Policing and Criminal Investigation

If you are thinking of studying at university, but are worried about your qualifications or haven’t studied in a long time, then have you seen Staffordshire University’s Step Up to HE programme? Robyn Leese, now a Policing and Criminal Investigation student, is one of many of our undergraduate students who progressed through the programme and has shared with us what she thought of it.

What motivated you to apply for Step Up?

I applied to the Step-up Course after doing 2 A-levels which did not guarantee me a place on my desired course. During the Step-up course you will develop new skills which help you progress in your higher education course.

How do you feel now you have progressed onto your degree? Did Step-up help prepare you?

Now I have completed the 1st year of my degree I am glad I did the Step-up course as it enabled me to learn new skills which have been needed for my course such as, correct grammatical techniques along with learning how to reference correctly. It also gave me the confidence to interact with new people which has benefitted me not only with my course, but outside the lectures too.

Would you recommended the Step-Up Course? What advice would you give to students considering returning to education?

I would definitely recommend doing the Step-up course, as it has helped me with my course and all the members of staff are so lovely and supporting through the whole process. If you are a student returning to education then I would advise you to interact with those on your course, as well as your lecturers as it makes it so much more fun and easier. I would also advise you to take as many opportunities as you can as it will make your university experience so much better.

Bear with a Care Chapter 7 – Baby’s Name Reveal

Last week we saw Divoc and Margie’s first week of parenting. Now, Baby Bear has a name. Let’s find out what he is called.

It rained a lot last week! The dog still needs to be walked…

Baby’s first swim

Story time with Daddy Bear

Time for Baby Bear’s name reveal…


Mums and Tots time.

Divoc’s first Father’s Day

Margie is on a mission to lose the baby weight.

The link to the Donna Louise Hospice Care is here for Facebook and here for Just Giving, if you would like to help Kath’s Bears with a Care raise money.

Anyone who donates is in with a chance to win their own bear (winner announced 30th June).

Win Your Own Bear

Check out the blog every Monday for your weekly update of Bear with a Care.

Bear with a Care – Chapter 6: The New Arrival

Last week we found out that Divoc and Margie were expecting a baby bear. Let’s see how they are getting on with parenthood…

First though, it’s time for the Baby Shower

Margie, it’s time!

Hello Baby Bear!

Time to take baby home

The perks of parenthood

Here come the visitors

Time for a family photo shoot

Poor dog

The link to the Donna Louise Hospice Care is here for Facebook and here for Just Giving, if you would like to help Kath’s Bears with a Care raise money.

Anyone who donates is in with a chance to win their own bear (winner announced 30th June).

Win Your Own Bear

Check out the blog every Monday for your weekly update of Bear with a Care.

Student Wins Middle Temple’s Access to the Bar Award

Chelsea Leonard, a Law student, has obtained an Access to the Bar Award from Middle Temple.

According to Middle Temple’s website, Middle Temple has established its Middle Temple Access to the Bar Award, which involves one week’s marshalling and one week’s mini-pupillage for undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds, providing them with funding for those two weeks.  University departments are invited to nominate one candidate each, with about a dozen being shortlisted for interview by the Inn.  The scheme will provide for eight placements per year in future.

Each award consists of one week’s work experience in a set of barristers’ chambers and one week’s marshalling a judge, during university vacations in summer.  

“I was fortunate to be awarded the COMBAR Access to the Bar Award funded by the Commercial Bar Association, who will arrange placements specifically for those interested in seeing commercial work. I was initially very surprised, but it was encouraging to receive confirmation that you have worked hard, and these efforts [are] being rewarded. The practical experience of the award will be invaluable. To gain experience marshalling alone is very difficult, we also get this experience for a whole week which is unheard of. The experience within the chambers for this length of time will be an amazing opportunity to make contacts and receive feedback. This experience will give my interest in the bar a great deal of credibility being able to cite.” 


Congratulations Chelsea! 








Bear with a Care – Chapter 5: New Beginnings

Divoc and Margie have been settling well into life at home, doing cooking, cleaning and playing games (including going on a log flume!). Let’s see what they have been up to since last week.

New beginnings…

Some exciting news!

Time to prepare for baby bear’s arrival…

Painting the nursery.

The dreaded flat-pack. You’ve got this Divoc! 



Shopping for some essentials…

Time for a clear out.

Margie’s changed her mind and Divoc needs gas and air!


‘Mum-to-be’ photo shoot.

The bears’ biggest fan received an honorary gift.

The link to the Donna Louise Hospice Care is here, if you would like to help Kath’s Bears with a Care raise money.

Anyone who donates is in with a chance to win their own bear (winner announced 30th June).

Win your own bear!

Check out the blog every Monday for your weekly update of Bear with a Care.

Food Imports Are a Threat to Our Environment

On World Environment Day, Sallyann Mellor, Lectuer in Law, addresses the issue regarding the Agricultural Bill, brought about from leaving the EU, and what this means for our environment. 

Our UK Government had the opportunity to amend the Agricultural Bill on 13th May 2020 to ensure imported foods followed the same strict food hygiene and animal standards that our UK farmers pride their selves on. Sadly, the move to change was defeated in the House of Commons by a majority of 51 votes.

The Agricultural Bill provides a framework that will replace agricultural support schemes such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) due to the UK leaving the EU. It is due to pass through parliament by the end of summer.

English farmers will be paid to produce goods which have a positive impact on the environment or animal welfare improvements.

The Bill offers wider measures to ensure fairness in the agricultural supply chain and there have been several additions to the Bill compared with the previous Bill which stalled due to the dissolution of parliament in October 2019. These wider measures include a requirement whereby ministers will report on food security at least once every five years, set out how farming will be funded by submission of plans and the consideration of food production in England, to encourage environmental sustainability.

Bottom of Form

You might be thinking so what, surely that will mean greater choice and cheaper prices? The truth is, we should all be concerned.

If we have learnt nothing else from the COVID19 pandemic it is how important it is to support our British Farmers and buy local because they came up trumps when some products were in short supply.

Have you noticed how blue and clear the sky has been since lockdown, have you heard more bird song and noticed how green our environment is…? The defeat will undoubtedly place our repairing environment under additional threat from imports that will increase emissions and undermine the hard work of our UK farmers in ensuring animal welfare and environmental standards are met.

What are our British farmers doing to support our environment? You may not know that our farmers are trying to tackle climate change to meet the UK Government commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. They do this daily by allowing cows and sheep to graze. You will have read no doubt the controversy regarding cows and sheep in relation to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.  However, what you may not realise is that grazing livestock can bring many environmental benefits.

65% of UK farmland is only suitable for growing grass and grazing. Grasslands store carbon which removes carbon dioxide from the environment as the plant grows and stores its carbon in the soil. Cows and sheep feed on the grass and by eating the grass and fertilising the soil, beef and sheep manage the grass and protect the valuable carbon stores.

Emissions from UK farming is estimated to be around 5% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, this will only increase from importing foods into the UK and seeks only to undermine the efforts of our British farmers.

The impact also on animal welfare must not be ignored, sadly importing products into the UK that do not follow our standards again undermines all that we do. The Red Tractor campaign was launched in September 2019 and remains today to demonstrate that the products proudly displaying the logo are safely produced, responsibly sources and crops and animals are carefully cared for. There are 4 main key standards that all farmers must adhere to if they are given the approval to display the iconic red tractor logo on their product.

  1. Animal welfare-animals must be housed with the right space, water and food and be healthy
  2. Environmental protection-fertilisers and pesticides are only ever used as a last resort to keep crops healthy. Farmers ensure that pollution and impact to wildlife is minimal.
  3. Food safety-no hormone growth, use of any animal medicine, no chlorine washed meat or poultry.
  4. Traceability- food products can be traced from the pack to the farm.

Whilst money will be tight given the economic climate we find ourselves in, please consider your purchases. The cheaper food products will have a significant impact on our environment. Continue to support your local farmer/butcher just as you have during the pandemic.  Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables that have been brought over by boat and not air where possible to reduce carbon footprint or better still buy locally produced seasonal fruit and vegetables.

It is the small things that can really make a difference but the lack of transparency to the consumer in relation the Agricultural Bill is really very important and I hope this blog has given you food for thought… 

Some useful links


Stoke-on-Trent to the Caribbean: the Amazing Experience of a Recent Forensic Investigation Graduate

Aimee Girdham graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Forensic Investigation in 2019. This short blog from Aimee discusses her recent experiences that saw her completing her degree in Stoke-on-Trent and then working in the Caribbean.

Aimee on graduation day

My course at University was fantastic, allowing practical, hands on experience in the world of Forensics whether in the Crime Scene House or in the State-of-the-Art Laboratories. A variety of specialist subjects were taught, that allowed a wide range of investigation and analytical skills to be developed. Getting involved in other activities, such as the Staffordshire Police Partnership Placement and International Week in Belgium, helped develop myself as a person but also my employability skills, which are incredibly important post-University.

All the lecturers were supportive throughout the course of my degree and it was after a chance conversation with Dean Northfield that he put me in touch with Acumè Forensics (a digital forensics presentation company). After being invited for an interview, I was successful in gaining a position as Courtroom Operator in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I received training in the Birmingham and Bristol Magistrates Court, learning about what my role would entail.

Beautiful blue waters and white-sand beaches


“My course at University was fantastic, allowing practical, hands on experience in the world of Forensics whether in the Crime Scene House or in the State-of-the-Art Laboratories. A variety of specialist subjects were taught, that allowed a wide range of investigation and analytical skills to be developed.”


From getting the job, to training to flying out to the Caribbean took place within a couple of weeks.

For the few months I was out there, I was having a brilliant time! The courtroom was built in the old hospital building specifically for this trial which is now in its fifth year. The trial has produced over 2,000 different documents as exhibits. During the trial, there have been a few incidents when the computers have gone down but nothing major and I have been able to fix the problem. Power cuts also make an appearance from time to time and the whole system goes down but again, thankfully nothing major and the issues are fixable. Before this job I wouldn’t go near technology, but I now have more confidence to at least look for the solution and attempt to fix it myself.

I have also been updating iPads using an Apple Mac, making sure the Judge and the Barristers have the correct and updated documents, which I have never done before and actually like doing. The case is an interesting one and I am enjoying being a part of it and I enjoy doing the job I do. When I explain my role to other people, it sounds simple just getting exhibits up on the screen for the court to see and following instructions, but it is so much more than that.

“The case is an interesting one and I am enjoying being a part of it and I enjoy doing the job I do”

I work for 3 weeks then get 1 week off and also have weekends off, so have plenty of time to explore. Before Coronavirus, I booked a trip to New York during the week off at the beginning of May, but unfortunately had to cancel. I hope to rebook at some point though and also have other trips to more places in the USA, such as Miami and around the different Islands like Grand Turk.

Turtle spotted near my Aimee’s apartment

The culture in TCI is amazing with a weekly Fish Fry event on a Thursday night. Here, they have several food and souvenir stalls with live music. Live music is common and popular in bars and at restaurants throughout the week. I go out to lunch on a Friday afternoon with the Barristers so get to sample different restaurants. It is nice to hang out with them in a different setting, as you get to see a different side to them. Tony and Co who are ex-financial investigators and ex-police officers involved in the prosecution team are out there with me and they have all been brilliant. I would be lost without them and they are great fun and I am learning lots from them too.

There are lots of events that happen every month throughout the year including the 11th Anniversary Race for the Conch Charity Swim in August, Into The Pink 12th Year Anniversary Party in October fundraising for the National Cancer Society and the Annual Conch and Caribbean Food and Wine Festivals in November.

There was an annual fishing tournament which I witnessed not long before coming back to the UK. Every year competitors fish for the biggest/heaviest fish they can get, and the one that weighs the most wins the competition and then the fish are auctioned off afterwards. You get to see the weighing and auction take place and is very interesting to watch.

Fishing tournament – auction

I have tried the local delicacy of Conch. It is a bit like Calamari but chewier and comes in many forms: cracked, blackened, chowder, fritters etc. As expected, there is a lot of seafood on the Island. I tried Lobster for the first time (which is delicious but only available during the Lobster season) Coconut Shrimp, and even Shark. At the Fish Fry event, you can even see Conch being pulled out of its shell and if I knew what it looked like before I tried it, it would have deterred me.

Coconut Snapper at a restaurant – one of the many on the Island


Conch (and the exquisite Conch Shells!) at the Fish Fry Event

It is a whole different way of life over there compared to the UK. Nothing is completed with any urgency, but it is very relaxing. I am lucky to be able to walk on the beach after work watching the sunset, go snorkelling and diving during the weekends, and have recently been introduced to yoga on Sundays, which is extremely refreshing! It is also more expensive to live over there, with a bag of grapes costing anywhere between $6 and $10! I do miss Aldi!

I have really settled into it and have met so many different people which is really nice. I got introduced to someone through one of the Barristers and she has now moved into the apartment above mine, so we have naturally become good friends.

Relaxing on the beach after yoga on a Sunday morning

I play Netball on a Wednesday night and hope to help set up and run a Lacrosse programme when I go back, alongside a Coach that comes occasionally.

I can now drive on the Island – first time driving an automatic car which has changed my views of driving a manual car. It is a bit different and slightly bigger than my Citroen C1 but that’s all part of the experience.

In February, I officially became an SSI Open Water Certified Diver. It is incredible and a different world to see, even to swim among sharks!

Turtle spotted when snorkelling

I am currently back in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic, but I hope to go back to Turks and Caicos Islands in the near future, possibly September time if everything goes to plan. In the meantime, I will be working in the Acumè Forensics office in Leeds, working remotely towards the end of next month. I hope to be out in the Turks and Caicos Islands until the end of the trial, however long that might take. I am making the most of my time over there and I am loving the work and life experience it has given me.

Stunning sunset at the beach













Bear with a Care – Chapter 4

The honeymoon over, the realisation of married life hit Divoc and Margie last week. Let’s see how our favourite bears are doing now.


“Right foot on blue”…

The Great British Cook Off


There’s only one way to decide a tie break…

“Rock, paper, scissors, go…”

Divoc wins!

  A sweet treat for Margie


#SundayFunday – perfect day for a bike ride.


Fun in the sun – happy Monday everyone!


The link to the Donna Louise Hospice Care is here, if you would like to help Kath’s Bears with a Care raise money.

Check out the blog every Monday for your weekly update of Bear with a Care.