The Hampshire & Isle of Wight’s Veteran and Volunteer Peer Mentor Coordinator scheme was launched in 2015 and provides an invaluable resource to help drive down reoffending in the county.
The team includes 21 volunteers who provide a range of volunteer support to people on probation to help them make positive changes to their lives. Volunteers help with everything from taking service users to appointments – such as with GPs, dentists and drug misuse services – through to providing company and offering support on addressing drug misuse, support with accommodation issues and providing financial advice.
Half-a-dozen of the volunteers served for the Armed Forces and work with people on probation who have also had military experience because research shows that offenders who have a Forces background respond best to people who have had a similar experience.
Ernie Grendall, HIOW CRC’s Veteran and Volunteer Peer Mentor Coordinator, runs the initiative and ensures all volunteers go through proper checks and undergo training. He also links service users with volunteers, monitors the contact and provides on-going supervision.
Prior to COVID-19, the team also ran two peer support groups where Ernie and his team provide service users with somewhere they can come every week to get further support and also mix with their peers which provides access to services and breaks down barriers related to isolation.
He said: “Probation has a rich history of volunteers which dates back to the late 1800s. Volunteers offer a helpful addition to routine offender management and give a range of support which is all aimed at supporting people on probation to successfully rehabilitate.
“I absolutely love the role and my fellow volunteers are all committed to working with the CRC to help offenders.
“Volunteers bring in a fantastic variety of experience and expertise which strengthens what the CRC has to offer. We have people from all different walks of life, from ex-service personnel through to students, professionals and retired volunteers which allows us to ensure we are flexible in our approach.”