A community of helping services

The notion of community involvement that I had met in the probation service had been in a way myopic. It was as if probation stood against the world in trying to uncover the positive potential of offenders. So there were probation officers and there were community involved actions such as the self help groups that our office facilitated. The lone crusade was acted out even further in more radical attempts to locate probation officers in the physical communities where offenders were living and operating – ‘detached probation officer’ projects. Other professionals were seen as part of the problem to be tackled (e.g. health visitors whose reluctance to attend a probation office had to be ‘overcome’), or as containing a few allies who operated as people on the edge of their own agency culture.

Step outside this beleaguered and under-confident culture and the world was full of people working with the same families often with the same ambitions in mind, and struggling with broader problems, not just of offending, but of child care, mental health, addiction etc. Clergymen were faced with bereavements, physiotherapists with loneliness of their clients, occupational therapists with mental ill heath, and in Milton Keynes, ‘arrivals workers’ with displaced and anxious families newly moving into an area where they knew no-one. All these people it turned out were only too pleased to have a listening ear from someone such as myself who brought some experience in working with people in trouble.

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