Last month support services firm, Interserve, launched its Opportunities for All campaign, highlighting the ways businesses can provide skills and employment support to those that need it most.
As part of this campaign, Interserve has pledged to support 20 of its key suppliers to sign up to Ban the Box and reduce the barriers to work for ex-offenders. Interserve employee, Lynsey Barker, shares her experience of being caught up in the criminal justice system and why she supports the Opportunities for All campaign.
Probation Case Manager Lynsey Barker turned her life around having once been a former alcohol and drug addict and repeat offender. After a long journey of hardship beginning with the death of her father Eric Hankin at the Hillsborough disaster, Lynsey was sentenced to a string of Community Orders.
Turning to alcohol
Lynsey began drinking at 13. Alcohol helped her cope with the death of her dad. Lynsey committed her first criminal offence at the age of 15, after she assaulted a girl who made prank calls to her family mocking her father’s death.
She said: “I didn’t know what to do with my grief after my dad died and I turned to alcohol to ease the pain. I don’t blame the circumstances for my behaviour. I realise I made the choice to offend. I gravitated towards people who were as low as I felt. No decent people would’ve wanted to know me. I was a chaotic mess.”
Choas and anger
Lynsey said: “A lot of family responsibility landed on my shoulders and the weight was enormous. When the prank calls started, I could not control my anger. My brother had learning difficulties that required financial support. I felt I had to bring in an income to contribute.”
Two difficult relationships, and three children later, she was arrested for drink driving and received a Community Order. She said: “I was arrested again and received a six-week custodial sentence. After release I continued drinking heavily and using cocaine.”
Wake up call
Arrested again for drink driving at 30, Lynsey realised she faced a lengthy jail sentence and that her actions were putting her family at risk. Lynsey said: “This was my wake up call.”
The court sentenced her to an intensive two year Community Order supervised by the Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company (M CRC) probation service. The order was revoked after she progressed well and quit drugs.
Based on Lynsey’s encouraging progress, her probation case manager Nicola Pennington recommended that she volunteer for M CRC. In 2011 she completed a six-week volunteer program, and when a probation case manager role came up she was encouraged to apply.
Probation: the turning point
Lynsey said: “Being on probation saved my life and I wanted to use my experience to help others. Probation staff helped me fill in the application form. I was shocked when I was invited to interview.”
Lynsey’s boss is Patsy May. Patsy said: “It has been a brilliant experience for us to be working alongside a former service user who through probation’s support has made life changes that inspired her to become a case manager.”
Lynsey said: “We’ve all made mistakes, we’re all human. I took the long hard route. If I can use my experience to prevent women from taking the tough road by encouraging people to not be afraid to seek help, I am happy to do it.
“And I also want to get the word out there that probation works. I think if I’d have been sentenced to prison I would’ve spiralled out of control. But through counselling, probation, and my husband Michael – they gave me the support to turn things around.”
Lynsey now works as a Probation Case Manager at Interserve, a Ban the Box employer. Find out more and sign up to Ban the Box.