A record number of offenders serving community work sentences are taking the opportunity to learn valuable work and life skills.
The number of offenders taking part in work and living skills (WLS) programmes reached 7,278 for the 2015 calendar year. This is a significant increase from the previous year where around 4,146 offenders took part.
Work and living skills training involves everyday skills that offenders need to successfully live an offence free life, and help them to find and keep a job.
Corrections offers a wide range of WLS training, where offenders can learn skills such as road safety, driver licencing, health and well being, education, parenting and budgeting skills and a variety of skills that help increase their employment opportunities.
“These WLS programmes aim to have a positive effect on offenders’ lives and play an integral part in helping to achieve our goal of reducing re-offending,” says Simon Daly, Acting Director Programmes and Interventions. “They teach offenders valuable life skills which they may not have had the opportunity to learn before and provide them with a positive foundation for a new start.”
The programmes have been well received, but are not without their challenges. For example, during a ‘cooking on a budget’ programme one offender had never before peeled an onion or seen a chicken breast. Some took more effort to motivate, as the option of buying a pie seemed easier, but once engaged, the participants really enjoyed being able to cook their own healthy meals.
Work and living skills training is part of the community work sentence. Community work offenders do unpaid work in the community to pay something back for the offence they have committed. It also gives offenders an opportunity to take responsibility for their offending and learn new skills and work habits.
Eligible offenders sentenced to over 80 hours of community work may be able to convert up to 20 percent of their community work hours into skills training.
Regional Round Up
- Tai Tokerau Community Corrections is helping offenders in Northland reduce drink-driving re-offending, and improve safe driving through its ‘Drive Soba’ and ‘Drive in Control’ programmes. The programmes teach offenders about the effects of alcohol on their driving behaviour.
- Mangere Community Corrections is conducting Drink Drive and Site Safe programmes to equip offenders with skills and to help them find employment. The Drink Drive programme addresses alcohol-related behaviour, while the Site Safe course gives offenders an opportunity to earn the qualification they require to work in the construction industry.
- Manukau Community Corrections programmes on offer include driver’s licence training, a ‘Teaching Gardens’ programme, and sewing and cooking courses.
- Hamilton Community Corrections has had a busy start to the year organising a number of programmes including “save a mate” and “get ready get thru” where offenders can learn how to help friends with drug and/or alcohol problems and be prepared for an emergency. Other programmes being offered included problem gambling, road safety, money management and cooking, practical parenting, brief drink drive, and tenancy law. Throughout the greater Waikato District, work and living skills courses such as Site Safe Passports, learners licencing, and brief drink driving interventions have been offered.
- Tokoroa Community Corrections is working with offenders at the Tokoroa Community Gardens, where they are learning horticultural skills. Other programmes include education about protection orders delivered by Police, “save a mate” and brief drink driving interventions with a health and safety focus.
- Eastern Bay of Plenty Community Corrections is partnering with the Red Cross to provide a First Aid course, where participants can earn a full first aid certificate. They are also running monthly cooking and bread making programmes, a two day learner licence programme as well as working with Harmony Trust to deliver a brief drink driving intervention.
- The support programme offered by Taupo and Turangi Community Corrections helped offenders prepare for new year by teaching them strategies for safety around alcohol and synthetic drugs, family violence, saving during Christmas, as well as a number of youth programmes. Offenders can also take part in one on one literacy programmes, where they can learn about job searching, CV preparation, interview skills, employment opportunities as well as a driver licence course.
- Palmerston North Community Corrections is partnering with emergency services and Horizons Regional Council Road Safety to deliver an innovative road safety programme. They are also working with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to deliver the Tangaroa – Recreational Fishing Rules Course, which teaches offenders about fishing regulations, quotas, water safety, sustainable fishing and off-beach fishing skills.
- Fortnightly health promotion clinics are being held at New Plymouth Community Corrections for offenders. The clinics are delivered by nurses from the New Plymouth Remand Centre and offer an engaging and supportive environment where offenders can share experiences and information. Guest speakers have included alcohol and other drug counsellors from the hospital and a representative from Green Prescriptions.
- In Gisborne, pregnant offenders are involved in the wahakura project. Participants help at-risk mothers weave traditional Maori flax bassinets for infants up to 5-6 months of age. The bassinets, known as ‘wahakura’, are donated to Gisborne Hospital. Offenders involved in the project are also given the chance to make a basket for their own babies while learning valuable life skills and parenting knowledge.
- Starting in February, Greymouth and Hokitika Community Corrections are offering level 1, 2 and 3 ‘Introduction to Retail and Employment Skills’ courses. At the completion of this course offenders can gain NCEA credits, a National Certificate in Employment Skills and an NZ Certificate in Retail. The course aims to give participants a clear understanding of what is expected of them in the workforce as junior employees in a commercial or retail environment.
- Gore Community Corrections has been busy providing gardening classes to offenders at the local marae. Other programmes offered are first aid courses, and education sessions around cooking, sexual health, budgeting, CV writing and parenting. A brief Drink Driving Programme is scheduled for March.
- A Community Work supervisor has been trained and accredited to deliver and assess health and safety training to community based offenders in Invercargill. Invercargill Community Corrections also ran a healthy living programme for women. Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust have engaged with Invercargill Community Corrections, providing one hour weekly sessions to offenders, where they give them valuable information to support improved wellbeing and share information about how behaviours and decisions impact individuals, whanau and community.