Litter clearance is a suitable activity for offenders sentenced to community punishment and has always formed a proportion of the unpaid work—currently standing at 7 million hours each year—performed by offenders on community punishment orders. It provides punishment of offenders in combination with reparation to the community.
The enhanced community punishment scheme which was introduced in October 2003, and is now operational in all 42 areas which make up the National Probation Service, is designed in such a way that it also has a rehabilitative effect and the potential to reduce the likelihood of reconviction.
Research indicates that certain qualities or features of placements appear to increase the rehabilitative impact of community punishment and the introduction of enhanced community punishment obliged local probation areas to re-evaluate all existing placements with a view to their capacity:
to provide demanding, purposeful work which the offender and the people who benefit from it see as a worthwhile contribution to the community; to ensure contact between the offender and the members of the community who benefit from the work; to provide opportunties for the offender to learn new practical and thinking skills, particularly in relation to employment; and to comply with health and safety requirements.
Where existing placements have not matched these criteria, it has usually been possible for areas to work with and support beneficiaries to ensure that the requirements can be met.
The type of activity undertaken is much less important than whether the placement provides challenging and demanding work for the offender, enabling them to develop skills which will improve their prospects in the job market. As long as the beneficiary and the probation area work in partnership, it should be possible to provide a quality placement through a well run litter clearance scheme. Suffolk Probation Area, for example, is currently undertaking litter clearance on a number of beaches as well as for local councils. A number of their staff are currently working towards a City and Guilds qualification which is a legal requirement for the supervision of litter clearance on highways and this should enable them to expand their activities further.