Justice social work

Community Payback Order - Unpaid work and other activity requirement

This is one of the requirements of a Community Payback Order (CPO) that can be imposed by the court. You must be aged 16 or over and assessed by the Social Worker in the Criminal Justice Social Work Report as being fit and suitable. It is a punishment as you will have to give up your free time but it is also an opportunity for you to work for the benefit of the community and ‘payback’ for your offending.

There are 2 levels of unpaid work:

  • Level 1 must be completed within 3 months and is between 20-100 hours
  • Level 2 must be completed within 6 months and is between 101-300 hours

What happens if a CPO with an unpaid work requirement is made?

An interview will be arranged for your induction with the Unpaid Work Officer within 5 days. Your circumstances will be confirmed and the requirements of unpaid work will be discussed with you. You will be given written instructions about where, when and how often you are to report. 
You must start unpaid work within 7 days.

If you are subject to a CPO with other requirements, you will also be seen separately by a Social Worker within 5 days.

The court can also regularly review your order to check your progress.

What do I have to do?

You must:

  • attend all appointments
  • report on time
  • tell the Unpaid Work Officer if you change address
  • tell the Unpaid Work Officer if you change job
  • work to a satisfactory standard
  • comply with health & safety instructions

Alcohol and drugs (unless medically prescribed) are banned and if you turn up for unpaid work under the influence you will be sent home.

What happens if I don’t comply with the order?

If you don’t comply, by not keeping an appointment or attending under the influence of drink or drugs, the Unpaid Work Officer will inform the court. This is called a ‘breach’. You will be summoned to court to explain this.

If the ‘breach’ is proven in court, the court can vary the Community Payback Order and impose new or different requirements, including a restriction of liberty order (a ‘tag’). It can also impose a prison sentence.

What work might I have to do?

Unpaid work is intended to be of benefit to individuals and organisations in the community.

You may be placed in work on your own – an ‘individual placement’ – or in a team.

The work you will do is determined by your ability, current demand and, where possible, your preference. Examples of work include: gardening, grass cutting, ground clearing, woodcutting, repair work, litter clearance, painting and decorating or carpentry. ‘Individual placements’ might be in a centre for older people or people with learning difficulties or with charitable organisations.

The other activity part means that where there are areas in your life that you need to improve, you can complete some of your hours by addressing these. Examples are improving your ability to get a job, help with reading or writing, or addressing problems with drink or drugs. The Unpaid Work Officer will discuss this with you.

How is the order supervised?

If you are working in a team, the work will be supervised by an Unpaid Work Supervisor and if it is an individual placement by agency staff. Your progress is reported to the Unpaid Work Officer who is responsible for recording the overall progress of the order. These records are available for you to see.

At the end of the order a progress report is sent to the court.

Will this cost me anything?

You are expected to pay the cost of attending appointments if you are travelling less than 3 miles.

If you are eligible to claim for travelling this will be on public transport and you are likely to be issued with a travel warrant.

If you have paid to travel you will need to provide a ticket to reclaim the cost.

How long will it take to complete?

There is no limit to the number of hours that you can work.

This will be determined by a number of factors, including whether you are in paid employment, the availability of unpaid work and the need to ensure that you complete your order within 3 or 6 months.