Criminals hit with community payback orders at court were not able to carry out many of the standard duties over the last 18 months due to lockdown and restrictions.
Instead, they have been put to work at vaccination centres, helping out at foodbanks, or been getting involved in the community covid response in other ways as part of their rehabilitation programme.
The council’s justice social work team came up with a new programme of community service, which also included other rehabilitation activities including online learning courses and connecting with third sector support agencies.
This blended approach was discussed at the council last week and Dumfries Provost Tracey Little asked for more information on how successful it had been.
She said: “The community payback service links people with the community, brings them back into the community, and engages them in ways that they were perhaps not engaged with before.
“I find that from different reports, and stories we get on how this has worked, we learn how this has helped an organisation, but also helped an offender.”
The provost highlighted that the new activities don’t involve much face-to-face interaction with the community.
“So, there isn’t that extra level of engagement that for rehabilitation and such like,” she said.
“I appreciate they have to get their hours in, and it’s not a criticism, I’m just interested to see if you feel this has been a bit detrimental.”
Council officer Heather Collington replied: “I think you’ve raised a really important point because one of the key benefits of the whole unpaid work programme is that bit about how you link people back in, and how you demonstrate it benefits communities.
“That was a real struggle for us, and no we didn’t achieve it because we couldn’t. We had to follow the appropriate restrictions and are still following appropriate restrictions.
“Having said that, I do think the team put an enormous amount of effort into trying to find reasonable alternatives in order to try and mitigate some of that.
“We haven’t done a formal evaluation, but certainly what we’re hearing is that on the whole that has worked reasonably well.
“We’d want to maintain some of that blended approach going forward.”