Offenders' car wash scheme breaking down barriers
Offenders are trying to turn their lives around while helping the elderly and disabled.
Young men with a range of minor convictions have been washing cars for pensioners and blue badge holders in south Belfast as part of an initiative set up by the Probation Board (PBNI).
The free scheme, which could be expanded into other areas, has been hailed for helping to break down barriers as well as providing a practical outlet for reparation.
PBNI acting director Cheryl Lamont said: "PBNI recognises that the fear of crime, particularly among older people and vulnerable groups, is an issue and aims to make more tailored services like the car wash available to this group, in an effort to reduce fear and help communities feel safer."
According to official figures, three out of four offenders who complete community service do not re-offend within one year.
Ms Lamont added: "Probation works by changing lives for safer communities and community service is a key element in our work.
"It is a visible and practical method of ensuring offenders pay something back to the community while helping them to develop skills they can use in the future which will prevent them continuing in a cycle of crime.
"Community service is one of the most successful court sentences in terms of preventing re-offending."
The free car wash operates at the PBNI office on Ormeau Road from 9am-4pm every Saturday.
Regular customer Joyce Murphy said: "The lads are very helpful and the supervisors have a very positive influence on them.
"Friends asks how I keep my car so clean and I tell them, there is nothing to worry about, this is a valuable initiative."
The Probation Board supervises around 4,400 people and more than 600 community service orders each year.
It is seeking suggestions from community groups and members of the public for potential new initiatives.
Ideas can be emailed to community firstname.lastname@example.org or nominated through the website www.pbni.org.uk.