OFFENDERS carrying out community payback sentences from the courts have given a new lease of life to a community centre in Kirklees.
They have been helping out at the Thornhill Lees community centre with a range of tasks – but have now become a mainstay at mealtimes.
Centre officials had contacted West Yorkshire Probation with a request for offenders to carry out some decorating work, but it has turned into far more than that.
The centre is trying to encourage local community spirit.
It had popular arts, crafts and youth groups, but the demand for the elderly luncheon clubs and other activities had fallen away.
The centre was already running a “soup and sandwich day” on Mondays and Wednesdays in a bid to encourage the community to socialise.
But research showed that some members of the local elderly community were not eating healthily. The community centre wanted to ensure this changed and offered a good quality meal for a subsidised reasonable price.
But it placed a strain on the existing volunteers.
Now West Yorkshire Probation have been able to provide offenders to assist with preparing, cooking and serving the meals.
Lesley Senior, administrator and organiser of the lunch club, said: “The community initially had doubts about having offenders on probation on the premises, but those doubts have now floated away.
“The majority of workers serving an unpaid work order give more than 110%, even more than the paid people would give!
“We cannot praise them enough.
“Andrew Frisby, the supervisor has advised us on menu ideas and has created a great atmosphere in the kitchen and dining area. He and his team are brilliant.”
Janine Pedley, a community payback project officer for West Yorkshire Probation, said: “We are so proud of the work the offenders have carried out at Thornhill Lees community centre.
“We champion how community payback is a way offenders to make amends for their crimes.
“In this instance they have really played a part in bringing a community back together.”
Courts across West Yorkshire hand out community sentence orders every day.
In the past few weeks, a new scheme has been introduced where local councils have been able to come up with their own suggestions as to the type of work offenders can do.
This includes clean-ups of play areas and getting rid of graffiti.