Senior Probation Officer, Manchester'New careers' is now a familiar notion; the rewards and difficulties have been much discussed. Here, the difficulties of a 'client' becoming a 'volunteer' in a day-centre are outlined in relation to one man, but the author counsels continued commitment to the optimistic principle.The after-care unit is sited in the centre of Manchester. Its five officers supervise people discharged to the Manchester City area who, at the time, are without a fixed address.In the basement of the building which houses the after-care unit, there is a day centre for clients and anyone who cares to visit. Essentially it is a 'drop-in' centre, but there is some structure. The staff comprises two full-time ancillary workers, a part-time cook and a third full-time worker employed through MSC.About forty-five people attend each day but numbers are very much dictated by season, weather and other variables.Facilities include games, showers, clothes washing machine, and washing equipment. A mid-day meal is provided each day at a nominal cost, and this is very much the focal point of every day. Various task-orientated groups are led by the MSC worker. In addition there is a rota of about twelve volunteers who either assist in the kitchen or help with the varied task groups. During 1979 and 1980 there were two separate 'communication groups' taking place simultaneously. At least twice each week the staff meet to discuss various aspects of the day's events. Part of this exercise acts as an encouragement for staff to liaise, co-ordinate thoughts and in particular examine the possibility of more structured involvement with particular attenders. JoeLargely because the strength of the centre is its informality, rarely have clients been asked to attend the centre as a condition of any order or licence. When this has occurred there has been a measure of success. During late 1979 the committee-comprising each member of staff plus the liaison probation officer and the senior probation officer, both from the after-care unit-decided to seek permission to use one of the members-Joe-as a fully fledged volunteer. Permission was sought and given by the ACPO for such an experiment to be carried out. Joe had many previous convictions, was thirty-five years old, with a severe drink problem which it was known at that time manifested itself mainly at times of crises. He was a man of about average intelligence. Joe had many previous convictions, ... with a severe drink problem... From the outset efforts were made to involve Joe not only in work within the kitchen but in the centre itself; the latter proved to be difficult for him to accept. With hindsight it is easy to see that, although we felt we were clear in our thinking about roles, situations developed where, to say the least, the picture was extremely blurred leading to confusion, not only for staff but, most importantly, for Joe himself. It was agreed he should come to the centre on three of the five days the centre is open. In common with other volunteers he would be pai...
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