Children & Young People Now
By Neil Puffett, Wednesday 04 July 2012
Peer mentoring projects for young people leaving custody are being developed at two young offender institutions (YOIs), youth justice minister Crispin Blunt has revealed.
Mentors must have been free from substance misses and offending for two years. Image: Arlen Connelly
Answering questions in parliament, Blunt said ex-offenders are “uniquely placed” to offer support to offenders, alongside other professional services, and “can connect with them in a way that many other agencies cannot”.
He added that peer-mentoring services using ex-offenders are being developed at Ashfield YOI in Bristol and Cookham Wood YOI in Kent, with help from the Prince’s Trust.
Blunt’s statement came in response to a question by Conservative MP Steve Brine, who said MPs on the justice select committee, of which he is a member, had recently heard evidence from a group of young people from User Voice, a charity which utilises ex-offenders to help young people and bring about reform.
“It was striking to hear them say that having respect for the status and position of a youth offending team worker is not the same thing as connecting with them and having them make a reasonable difference to their lives,” he said.
He added that there should be “a much greater role” for offenders and ex-offenders in steering young people away from offending and reoffending.
The peer mentoring projects being developed by the Prince’s Trust are an extension of previous programmes run by the organisation in adult institutions.
Young people receive 12 months support from a volunteer supporter which involved visits and correspondence while in prison for six months before release; meeting at the gate on the day of their release; followed by meetings in the community for six months after release.
Volunteer supporters must be former offenders with experience of prison, but who have been free from offending and substance misuse for at least two years.