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2nd October 2014

Patience pays off for Laura

Laura Borley, probation services officer at Varley Street

Laura Borley, former volunteer and now a probation services officer at Varley Street

CRIMINOLOGY graduate Laura Borley has become a probation services officer after first enrolling as a volunteer four years ago.

She is one of three former Cheshire volunteers to have been employed by the CGM CRC in August.

Laura, who studied at Chester University, checked criminal justice agency websites on a daily basis hunting for a break, but struggled to find work related to her degree.

Finally she spotted probation’s mentoring scheme, and was accepted. Laura participated in a two-day training programme prior to taking up a range of posts – while balancing paid jobs in catering and laterally with a financial investment company.

She said: “I’d always been interested in crime and I knew as soon as I began my degree that it was the right course for me.

“About half-way through my studies my interests gradually shifted from thinking I’d try to join the police to probation: to working with people rather than just locking them up.”

Finishing university was a difficult transition.

She said: “Like 99 per cent of graduates, I thought I had a good shot at getting a job related to my degree, but it was the start of a really frustrating period.”

Laura constantly scanned for jobs on websites for probation, police, court services, prisons and youth offending teams until she saw the volunteer mentor scheme.

Like all new recruits, she was able to choose from a range work. During three years, she experienced supporting offenders on domestic abuse programmes, court work and mentoring, among others.

Laura, who is based at Varley Street probation office, said: “My role was to help offenders who struggled with literacy and numeracy issues to ensure these barriers didn’t affect their ability to complete the programme.

“It was a little intimidating at first to be in a room with 20 male offenders all of whom were guilty of domestic abuse, but the two facilitators were great and I enjoyed linking what I was seeing back to what I’d learned at university.

“Over the years I got to experience all the different elements of an offender’s journey through probation, both in terms of how it works for the offender and the member of staff.”

Laura’s role at breach court was to meet the offender after they had been sentenced to inform them about their probation appointment. She also delivered the Breach Activity Requirement on a one-to-one basis.

Laura said: “I particularly enjoyed the more structured elements. I could see my experiences – both from my day job and as a volunteer – were extremely beneficial and helped fill my cv’s gaps.

“As a volunteer I was able to observe lots of different things directly related to the job, and to pick up the acronyms, whereas my paid job in finance gave me confidence and taught me about team work.”

Eve Croft, the CGM CRC’s volunteer coordinator, told Laura that probation services officer (PSO) vacancies were being advertised and her application was successful.

Laura said: “It was a massive leap of faith to leave a permanent job that I was enjoying and which was at a stable organisation in order to take the PSO role because it was on less pay, is only a temporary contract that finishes in March and is at an organisation going through a lot of changes.

“But I’d been trying to get a job in probation for so long, I was so happy to be offered the position and I felt I’d regret it if I didn’t give it a go.

“Now I know it was the right decision, it’s a challenge but I am really enjoying it.”