From our victim services and family support, through to our offender management and resettlement services, the roles of our volunteers have great impact on our service users.
Having ‘good people’ around you is one of Catch22’s ‘3P’s which we believe are essential for a person to thrive – along with the need to have a purpose and a safe place to live. Last year, 122 volunteers offered their time towards Catch22 services – many providing a service user with the ‘good person’ they needed at a highly vulnerable point in their lives.
Often, Catch22’s volunteers operate in a mentoring capacity; whether it’s peer mentors within the prisons Catch22 operates in, or as a mentor for a young person, positive role models are essential for support. We recruit volunteer mentors and lived experience champions who enable us to connect more effectively with certain communities of people that we sometimes find difficult to support. From helping service users in youth mentoring programmes, to providing help in prisons or in our substance misuse services, volunteers improve the diversity of our teams and the support we offer across the board.
Additionally, we have volunteers in specific services:
- National Citizen Service: Our NCS participants offer thousands of hours of volunteering every year, providing direct benefit to local communities.
- Prisons: Our peer-mentors are volunteers currently serving their sentence and offer a unique perspective while supporting prisoners’ rehabilitation.
- Victim services: We have 15 volunteers working across our victim services – Beacon, Victim Care, and Victim First – who support at community engagement events, act as a secondary facilitators in Restorative Justice cases, or conduct satisfaction surveys with victims after a case has closed.
- Missing and CE Services: 64 volunteers have helped children and young people engage with other local services and to receive ongoing longer-term support. Additionally, the Stoke and Staffordshire service has operated an ongoing pilot since March 2020.
The pilot Volunteer Mentor Service
The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Child Exploitation and Missing service offers a Volunteer Mentor Service as part of its Child Criminal Exploitation pilot service. This enables them to provide a gentle ‘step-down’, rather than a cliff-edge exit from the service. The service is able to address some things that they aren’t commissioned to do but that will make a difference to long-term change and recovery for the children and young people they work with.
The support from mentors includes preparing CVs, job, and university applications, support with specific issues such as self-esteem, anger management, and providing awareness of community, educational and economic resources available to young people, and more.
13-year-old Alice* was referred to the pilot scheme in December 2020, after she went missing from her residential care placement and returned two hours later. During her return home interview, she said “I went missing as I wanted to clear my head as I am not very happy now”. She explained how she was feeling, how isolated she felt in her new placement, and that she was struggling to build relationships at her school. The Catch22 Voluntary Mentor Service was offered to Alice, who wanted the opportunity to regularly talk to a mentor about how isolated she felt. By maintaining contact with her mentor, Kate has not had any further missing incidents since her Return Home Interview and the referral to the Volunteer Mentor Scheme.
The pilot has also been able to have issue-specific volunteer ‘champions’, who are able to offer advice as needed. Current volunteer champions represent trans communities, care leavers, parents, and specific religions or ethnicities.
100% of the pilot project’s mentors ‘strongly agree’ that they have personally benefited from volunteering too, and a young participant recently provided this feedback:
“It is so nice to have a friendly face, someone to talk to whether that be about a serious, important topic, or something that was stressing me out, or just a general chat to escape life for an hour or so.”
– Young person supported by a volunteer at Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Child Exploitation and Missing
The value of volunteers
Mentoring has both a restorative and preventative impact for young people, some who would not have reached the threshold for professional services and some that have already received support but would benefit from ongoing support in some capacity.
Volunteers act as ambassadors in their communities too – for both the support available and by improving awareness and understanding of the issues a service may be dealing with, whether it’s missing incidents or crime and the impact on victims.
Finally, there is the incalculable economic benefit too: ongoing, long-term support for young people and vulnerable service users can avoid the need for further referrals to professional support too.
“She helped me understand the effect my drug use was having on my family. She helped my mum understand and helped our family get support from other agencies.”
– Service user supported by a volunteer at Hampshire 24/7