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OFFENDERS and volunteers have teamed up to transform wasteland into a community facility in Partington.

August 16, 2012, 1:28 pm

OFFENDERS and volunteers have teamed up to transform wasteland into a community facility in Partington.

The scheme was carried out by New Choices, a joint initiative run by Jobcentre Plus and Greater Manchester Probation Trust (GMPT). It was funded by property management company Telereal Trillium.

New Choices, based at Big Life in Wood Lane, Partington, is a project that involves the supervision of offenders in a non-probation venue where they are also able to access Jobcentre Plus’s services.

The idea to make the pitches was developed by Jobcentre Plus’s Jean Ham and Vicky Fraser, a Telereal Trillium facilities manager. The goal was to bring offenders and jobseekers together to volunteer on a project that would be beneficial to the community.

The wasteland had previously been used by Travellers who had used it to keep their horses on. Grass was shoulder high. Residents impressed by what they had seen came out to join offenders, jobseekers, a police officer, GMPT staff and Barton Grange, who supplied an industrial mower.

Barry Saunders, a probation officer who is based at New Choices every Wednesday, said: “I am buzzing about this project, I think it’s fantastic that so many people have come together to volunteer for their local community.

“Community Payback worked for two days to clear the field, a local farmer leant a hand with his tractor and now the residents have gotten involved as well.

“I firmly believe that by taking part in this project offenders will be overcoming barriers to making that first step to getting a job. It’s teaching team skills, commitment and giving them confidence.”

Nurseries donated flowers, residents mucked in and volunteers played police at five-a-side football after the area had been cleared.

Vicky Fraser said: “We are very impressed by the work being carried out at New Choices, but what became abundantly clear to us as we worked with clients on mock interviews was that many lacked self-confidence.

“When we saw the wasteland outside the office, we thought it would be an excellent idea to work with a team of volunteers from New Choices to transform the area.

“The team-building exercise has provided the community with a valuable facility that all can enjoy, while also helping participants increase their self-belief and employability.”

On average a dozen offenders are seen by probation officer Barry Saunders at the centre, which is the first project of its kind in Greater Manchester.

Marion Meakin, probation partnership manager, contacted the local parish council and arranged for use of the field for the project.

Telereal Trillium provides property management services to Jobcentre Plus and is also committed to improving the communities in which it works.

Big Life has supported New Choices from the start and initially allowed the premises to be used for no cost. The rent is now covered by Your Housing Group.

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