CPO Connect: A wellbeing-led approach to Community Payback Orders

Think of Community Payback Orders and you’ll likely imagine people picking litter up off the streets or painting fences. Activities that, yes, offer a service to communities, but perhaps don’t provide much in the way of valuable learning for the people who have to undertake them.

The coronavirus pandemic opened a window of opportunity to reimagine how Community Payback Orders might be carried out during a time when many typical activities couldn’t be done safely. Suddenly there was a need for a type of CPO that could be completed remotely, and a chance to rethink what a CPO could look like.

That’s why CPO Connect was born.

What is CPO Connect?

CPO Connect is a service delivered by the Wise Group which creates a secure and flexible way to complete Other Activity hours.

Clients can attend a range of two-hour online sessions delivered by trained facilitators on a range of topics, many of which centre around mental health and personal growth.

Since its launch in February, the service has received 147 referrals and 783 sessions have been booked, resulting in a total of 2,730 Other Activity hours being completed.

What does a CPO Connect session look like?

Lenny Thakur delivers some of the sessions and offers clients invaluable advice on boosting their wellbeing.

“One of the sessions I was running for a while had a big focus on self-esteem, self-care and mindfulness, which helped provide advice on how to exist in the present moment without rehashing past experiences,” she says.

“A new session that has just been added is all about emotional and physical wellbeing. We chat about how to achieve emotional balance, how to identify and challenge irrational or unhelpful thoughts, and how to develop a more positive mindset so we can pick ourselves up rather than bring ourselves down when we experience difficulties.

“We also look at how exercise and activity can impact our mental health, as well as consider how achievement-focused activities such as mastery can positively impact our self-esteem. Plus we chat about the importance of sleep and relaxation – do our clients do enough of it, and is it something they find difficult to do?”

Many of the attendees have said they get as much from Lenny’s wise counsel as they do from sharing their thoughts and experiences with one another. Having a dedicated space to discuss these issues openly without judgement is not to be underestimated.

“That’s something really important to me. We don’t talk about offences, we don’t talk about punishments – it’s more about who they are as a person, what they need and how they can improve.

“When people serving CPOs paint fences or clear up little, they pay back to society. When they work on themselves and their own wellbeing through programmes like CPO Connect, they are in a more stable place. It’s the combination of both these which create an effective payback order which improves outcomes and reduces reoffending.

“There are people who have been to some of the sessions a few times and they’ve got something new from it each time.”

Find out more about CPO Connect

Read more about CPO Connect, and check out Hamish Robertson’s thoughts on how to harness innovation and support recovery within the justice system.