Volunteers win award for supporting prison leavers

Volunteers in North Tyneside have received an award for their work supporting people leaving the criminal justice system.

The volunteers from national mental health charity Richmond Fellowship received a Bronze Commendation at the North Tyneside Council’s Chairman’s Commendation Scheme awards for their work to help reintegrate people into society and reduce re-offending levels.

Karyn Ainsley, Richmond Fellowship’s Locality Manager for Tyne, Wear and Northumberland, said:

“We’re very proud of the achievements of our volunteers. Our service takes people who have lived experience of mental health problems and the criminal justice system and helps them to use this to support other people in the community.

“For someone leaving the criminal justice system it can be a scary and intimidating time and our service is a helping hand to access support in the local area and develop networks that are vital to aid reintegration and reduce reoffending levels.”

One Volunteer, first accessed support after leaving mental health services and struggling to integrate into society resulting in detainment. After engaging with the service they were able to stabilise their life and they now volunteer to support other people:

“When I saw the advert for peer support I saw how valuable the service would have been to me. Discharged from a section onto the streets I ended up in-and-out of cells.

“The police kept me safe, addressed my immediate housing and medical needs and accessed a social worker. This was not the role of Police, though they are probably the reason I survived that period.

“Recognising the value that a service like this would have given to me, and discovering that there was an opportunity to volunteer somewhere that lived experience of the Criminal Justice and Mental Health systems was not a barrier, or a dirty secret to be overlooked, but was a viewed as an asset felt unbelievable.

“I was initially plagued with self-doubt but the team encouraged me through training and supported me around my self-confidence.

“Looking at short term and long term goals with my peer worker, seeing the achievements she’s made and the stability she’s achieved gives me a different outlook for my life.”

The Liaison and Diversion service is provided by national mental health charity Richmond Fellowship in partnership with NTW NHS Foundation Trust to deliver community support to people leaving the criminal justice system.

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