Fife charity under fire for using sex offenders says it’s ‘safeguarding’ Fifers

A Cupar-based charity, which has come under fire after it was revealed it employs sex offenders, says it safeguards the community.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 8:05 am
Cllr Tony Miklinski and charity CEO Sylvia Ingram.
Cllr Tony Miklinski and charity CEO Sylvia Ingram.

The Castle Furniture Project, which provides free or low cost household goods to struggling families or individuals in Fife to help relieve poverty, has been inundated with calls and emails from the public since the news broke, with some calling for a demonstration.

But, in an interview this week, its CEO, Sylvia Ingram, said it would be a shame if the charity ‘collapsed’, explaining the lengths the organisation goes to to protect the public.

The charity employs no more than one sex offender at each of its sites, in Glenrothes and Cupar, at any one time.

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It does not employ sex offenders, who have been given a custodial sentence, with individual risk assessments carried out each time.

Four members of staff also have qualifications in risk management.

“We want to let the public know we’re not just a grass roots project that has no control over what’s going on,” Ms Ingram said.

“We know who is coming in and out. Safeguarding the community is important to us.”

The organisation has been working with sex offenders for the last eight years, and, one of the reasons it receives £100,000 per year from Fife Council, is for rehabilitation work with the offenders.

“Working with a sex offender is a long piece of work for us,” said Ms Ingram.

“It’s not about someone coming in, doing their community hours and leaving again. It’s over three years, sometimes more.”

“We believe it makes the community safer. If a sex offender comes in to work with Castle quite often they will be confronted by our volunteers on the offence. Sometimes we will have a meeting. That, for me, is rehabilitation work.

“It’s not just about doing your community service hours. Here, they are having to work with the community. We don’t just let sex offenders just walk into people’s houses.”

One element of the rehab work is discussing the impact childhood sexual abuse can have on the victim.

Ms Ingram, a victim of childhood sexual abuse, said: “I found that I can rehabilitate and say ‘I can tell you from the core, it’s shame, PTSD’.

“I get a chance to work with them at a different level than perhaps someone in the justice system. I believe in rehabilitation.”

Councillor Tony Miklinski, who sits on the charity’s board, said: “This is a service to the community that no one else does.

“What else are they going to do with their time? Think about what they are going to do next? Far better that they are employed by an employer that takes the risks seriously and are set up to do that safely for the public.

“These people have been working with us for years – no incidents, no issues. We’re well structured. I hope this can move on.”

The organisation has also invited people with concerns to visit the charity to find out more.

The charity has also had support from Cupar Community Council, which said that it “fully supports” the work that the charity does and “fully appreciates the opportunity the give people to re-enter employment”.