Where do you work?

I am the London Courts Coordinator running the project that supports anyone whose loved one is appearing in court.

Describe your Pact journey so far?

I began as a Court Volunteer. This role involved attending court and providing emotional and practical support to anyone struggling with a loved one going through the justice system. Since I myself had narrowly avoided imprisonment a few years previously and had witnessed my own family having to go through this difficult journey, this was a project close to my heart and one I felt very passionate about.

During my time at Pact I also had the opportunity to be involved with the Pact Helpline, and in 2014 I applied for a paid job with Pact as a Family Engagement Worker. I was initially based at HMP Pentonville and later working at HMP Brixton. This role involved working directly with prisoners, as well as their families, on family related issues with the aim of ultimately reducing their chances of reoffending and minimising the harmful side effects of imprisonment. The role also involved delivering courses such as Family Literacy in Prison and Storybook Dads. This was an incredibly interesting role which taught me a lot and was very rewarding.

In Autumn 2016 the role of Court Project Coordinator came up, and given my experience as a court volunteer, I was delighted to get the role. I am excited to take the project forward and have a lot of ideas for it, which I look forward to putting into action!

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

One of my favourite things about working at Pact is that there isn’t really a typical day! Two days are rarely the same and my current Courts Coordinator role contains an interesting variety of different tasks and types of work.

Some days are more administrative and may involve collating records kept by volunteers in court about the work they have done and outcomes that have been achieved, or looking at volunteer applications and deciding who to invite to interviews and training. Some days involve going into courts and inducting newer volunteers, or meeting with volunteers to provide ongoing support. I also do outreach work at Prison visitor’s centres and will at times personally support families at court hearings.

Another important aspect of my role is building links with other services, both within and outside Pact. Within the organisation there are lots of opportunities to refer families to our different services such as the Peer Support Group and our Befriending project. And I am constantly looking at ways to link up the service better with external agencies, such as Probation or the Witness Service. This often involves arranging meetings to discuss how we can work together in a mutually beneficial way.

So I am always busy, often in multiple locations within a day and meeting and liaising with a lot of different people. A day in this role is rarely dull and it is a style of working I enjoy.

What have you got from working at Pact?

During my time at Pact I feel I have gained a huge amount of experience and skills. I have worked in a number of different environments such as office, courts and prisons and interacted with a massively diverse range of people such as families, prisoners, prison officers, social workers, lawyers and judges. I have worked both on the frontline and in a volunteer coordinator role, and have attended a number of interesting training days. I know all of this will be massively helpful to me in terms of my professional development going forward. More important than all of the above, though, is the level of job satisfaction that I have got from working at Pact. I also genuinely enjoy the work I do on a day to day basis.

What is the best thing about working at Pact?

I would say I have two best things about working for Pact. The first is the job satisfaction and how rewarding the work is. On many occasions during my time at Pact I have genuinely felt like I have affected positive change and made a difference to the lives of service users. Sometimes that has been in a major way, such as helping a prisoner achieve child contact, or managing to reassure a distraught mother in court whose son has been sent to prison that there is support available for her. Sometimes it is more subtle; just being the person on the end of the phone, in a court or in a prison who is willing to listen and treat the service user as a human being can make a massive difference to how they feel.

The second thing is my colleagues. I feel very blessed to work alongside such a fantastic group of people, who are so passionate about the work they do. I have made many close friends working at Pact and when anything stressful or emotionally difficult comes up at work (which inevitably it sometimes can working in this field) I always know there are a number of colleagues I can call and talk to about it, and the same goes vice versa.

What are you most proud of achieving at Pact?

My most proud achievement at Pact is the work that I did with a prisoner (who I will call Mr B) whilst in my Family Engagement Worker role. When I first met Mr B he had a serious drug addiction and had not seen either of his children for over five years. I worked with him extensively on his family issues, both in practical ways such as helping him write letters and perhaps more importantly providing emotional support and allowing him to talk and reflect. During the time I worked with him his attitude towards what had happened with his family changed a lot, and this eventually meant that the mother of his children became prepared to allow him to communicate with his children. This provided a catalyst to him discontinuing to use drugs in prison and actively engaging in a 12 step program.

By the time I left my role he was coming up to release and was five months clean. He told me that working with me on his family issues had changed the course of his life and that he felt I had walked every step of the journey with him. I found this incredibly touching and I was proud to have been able to help facilitate such a profoundly positive change in a service user.