The peer mentoring scheme in South Yorkshire, now known as the Peer Partnership, was conceived via the Voice For Change Hub (VFCH) – a Forum designed by service users for service users. The development and co-ordination of both projects has been facilitated by Fiona Miller South Yorkshire CRC Service User Involvement Officer.
Since August 2013 Voice For Change Hub sessions have been taking place once per month in all four of the South Yorkshire divisions. This provides service users with space to be an influential voice, having direct impact on what the organisation does, as well as providing a forum for service users to progress into either of the three “Voice member” roles or mentoring positions.
Each involves a different level of commitment and encompasses the diversity and circumstance of the service user stage of change, which builds on motivation and enthusiasm developed from their interests.
Voice members successfully walked through the TR process with the service and continue to creatively implement voice ideas into the organisation, particularly contributing to the development of the Peer Partnership scheme.
Voice members designed their own logo to complement their work which also contributed to the production of the voice member and Peer Partnership mission statement and code of conduct. This built foundations for them to embark on a journey of actively working on a newsletter and a personalised service user pack.
They also participated in canvassing sessions to recruit new members and developed work around the twelve criminogenic needs.
In addition they also develop ways to implement their voice through in-service training sessions and in-service meetings. In preparation for mentoring Voice members support mentors actively working in the field by way of skills sharing.
Since January 2014 the project is proud to have recruited and trained 22 mentors. Some have moved on into employment while others remain and continue to give time to support service users and assist staff in reducing reoffending.
Mentors now facilitate the VFCH sessions and work with Voice members to creatively implement their voiced ideas into the organisation.
Mentors are currently working cases, on a one-to-one basis, and as part of their mentoring experience they have chosen one of the twelve criminogenic needs as a specialist area.
The one-to-one work focusses on the specific need of the mentee and is tailored to offering assistance to case managers working on sentence plan objectives
Mentors and Voice members have developed their ability to work with service users via established requirements attached to orders.
Group programmes: Mentors work with selected groups to encourage motivation and increase engagement.
Women’s Project: Female mentors have assisted in cooking, crafts and group sessions offering female service users the opportunity to engage with the service in a way which offers a fun and safe environment (see photo, left).
Mentors have extended their work in the community upon suggestion by those in the VFCH and made links with the football clubs and housing projects.
It was felt that football was a sport commonly known interest to most and a vessel easy to engage others.
Voice members and mentors also identified accommodation as a key issue for a majority of service users so felt that this should take priority and have currently developed a project to work with housing provisions in assisting Service Users with such difficulties.
Mentors have delivered workshops in the community to deter those in the community at risk of re-offending and have participated at conferences sharing their experience and journey into mentoring and undertaken briefings. The project is still in progress.