Sharon Beardon, a National Careers Service adviser working at Her Majesty’s Prison /Young Offenders Institution (HMP/YOI) Hatfield in Doncaster has been commended for the outstanding dedication and passion she brings to her work by the Butler Trust. The Trust recognises, celebrates, develops and shares good practice by people working in prisons, probation, and community and youth justice, across the UK.
Sharon, employed by Prospects, the employment, education and skills company who deliver the National Careers Service in Custody service in 36 prisons across the country. At HMP/YOI Hatfield Sharon, who works as part of the Careers Yorkshire and the Humber consortium, was nominated by Liz Whitaker, the Learning Skills and Employment Manager, at Hatfield. In her nomination Liz wrote that Sharon is “an exceptional individual who makes a remarkable difference to improving prisoner lives through her dedication and passion to transform lives. She is highly thought of by both prisoners and staff.”
Working above and beyond to help the prisoners she supports Sharon receives a large number of thank you letters from ex-offenders. Henry* wrote: “Sharon has been amazing, fighting my corner relentlessly working hard in securing funding… I can’t thank her enough for what she has done for me. Without her devotion the employment I have now secured would not have happened.” Alan* commented: “She supported me though some bad times, kept my spirits up and made sure that I got the training I needed for the job that she has helped me to retain.” Dave* noted: “My family and myself would like to thank Sharon for all the hard work she has done for me over the past 17 months, she has been amazing to be able to secure me employment after serving 15 years in prison.”
In the last year Sharon has supported 44 people into work, a further 24 will go into work on release, 68 have accessed courses, 54 gained CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) cards and 36 forklift licences. Sharon achieves much of this through her commitment to partnership work and providing a first class service.
Sharon is the driving force behind getting Virtual Campus, the internet platform used within prisons, set up in Hatfield, enabling prisoners to create CVs on Virtual Campus which she submits to CV builder acting as a broker for employment opportunities. This work has allowed prisoners to apply for jobs, be selected for interview and even secure paid employment. Sharon has forged links with organisations to secure funding, allowing prisoners to access courses that would be closed to them otherwise, including the Hardman Trust, Salvation Army and British Legion.
In addition Sharon has excellent labour market knowledge allowing her to provide accurate and realistic advice about employment prospects on release. She was instrumental in arranging a training open day with external providers and secured free CSCS qualifications and fostered a relationship with Intertrain (the largest railway training provider) that gave 15 prisoners training worth £800 each and guaranteed job interviews on release.
Sharon’s manager, Mel Wheeler comments: “I am extremely proud of Sharon in receiving this award, her passion and dedication to help the customers that she is working with is effortless for her and she exceeds all expectations as a National Careers Service adviser, always going the extra mile to help others to achieve their potential and I am just so happy that she has been rewarded for this and maybe now she will accept how “outstanding” she really is!”
Liz echoes Mel’s comments “Sharon is unique in what she does. She would describe this as ‘just doing her job’ but what she gives goes beyond and changes prisoners lives for the better.” One example included Sharon arranging for a mechanical digger to be brought in to support a group of prisoners in gaining qualifications. She attended these sessions in her own time saying: “I don’t want there to be a problem, the lads have worked so hard for this.”
Administration Officer Yvonne Wise works closely with Sharon and says she is: “often swept up in the whirlwind that is Sharon’s passion to help others. Her determination can be both frustrating and enthralling at the same time. She goes above and beyond and is altruistic in her work with both staff and prisoners alike.” Yvonne describes how a prisoner recently expressed his concern about a rumour that Sharon was moving to pastures new. Clearly worried he asked: “what will the prisoners do without her? She helps us so much, we really do appreciate what she does.”
Hatfield’s Governor Christopher Dyer agrees: “Sharon brings to the establishment a special blend of commitment enthusiasm and resilience, which I am extremely pleased to have in my reducing re-offending team. At HMP&YOI Hatfield we work with up to 338 prisoners including young offenders providing a regime that helps equip them for life outside of prison through tasks, qualifications, resettlement and accredited offending behaviour programmes. We nominated Sharon for a Butler Trust Award for the excellent work she undertakes supporting prisoners to find the right work and training both in prison and in the community when they leave prison. We are thrilled she has been awarded a Commendation; she is now one of a select group of people to be recognised for their excellent work in prisons.”
Sarah Collinson, Chair of Careers Yorkshire and the Humber agrees: “We are delighted that Sharon has received this prestigious recognition for the dedication she has shown in supporting the men in HMP&YOI Hatfield.”
The Butler Trust’s Director, Simon Shepherd, praised all of the award winners: “Once again, our Award Winners and Commendees have shown outstanding dedication, skill and creativity in their work and we are delighted to be able to give them some much-deserved wider recognition. It is extremely encouraging to note that, even in challenging times, the prison, community and youth justice services remain full of people who strive to make a difference to the people in their care – and in Sharon’s case, the dedication and passion she brings to her work really shone through, particularly her efforts to find sustainable employment, education and training opportunities for those in her care. Many congratulations to Sharon and we look forward to seeing her - and all of our Winners - at St James’s Palace in March where they will receive their Awards and Commendations from our Patron, HRH The Princess Royal.”
Sharon will now build on her success working with the Butler Trust as she joins their development programme attending workshop sessions and working towards qualifications recognising good practice. But at the moment Sharon is just taking in her reality of her win: “I feel very proud of my achievement. I have worked in prisons for more than 20 years and this award has given me a chance to take a step back and reflect on what I have achieved for the lads and the difference this has made to them. I am so proud that I have been able to change so many lives because I didn’t give up on them.”
Ofsted recently graded Sharon’s National Careers Service provision as outstanding. She supports hundreds of people each year and her success in finding so many – more than half – sustainable employment, education, and training options, is a remarkable testament to the impact of her work.
To find out more about Prospects work in prisons and the National Careers Service visit www.prospects.co.uk.
* Names of ex-prisoners have been changed to protect their identity.