Peer power helps prison leavers

Our Leeds-based Peer to the Future (PTTF) project successfully helped needy prison leavers to adjust to life in the community and address factors which reduce the likelihood of re-offending, according to a recently launched evaluation by TSIP (The Social Innovation Partnership).

PTTF, which ran from February 2014 to March 2015, was a pilot project funded through the Home Office Rehabilitation Social Action Fund. Men in HMP Leeds and ex-offenders in the community were trained to a Level 3 in Advice and Guidance through our Peer Advisor Programme and offered support to other prisoners and ex-offenders.

TSIP highlighted the use of trained ex-offenders as being particularly effective in providing credible, empathetic services to help clients with complex needs. The evaluation also concluded that providing ‘through the gate’ support both in prison and in the community was particularly important as this is the time when the risk of re-offending is at its highest.

During the course of PTTF, 203 clients were supported by 43 Peer Advisors. Of these, 143 were helped into accommodation, 112 were helped into education and training and seven successfully found employment. Over a quarter of the Peer Advisors successfully gained the Level 3 qualification during the course of the programme and many more continued to qualify after it came to an end.

The findings were launched at a small celebration event at the team’s offices in Harehill Road in Leeds on Friday 23 October. It was attended by local partners, staff, volunteers and those who had benefitted from the project. One said: “For all my problems in life, I’d just turn to gear. Now that is changing. I don’t think I can do that without St Giles Trust.”

Since PTTF came to an end, we have successfully applied to the Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities Fund. It will help us establish a network of Peer Hubs across the wider area of Leeds to utilise trained Peer Advisors in other areas of need beyond the criminal justice sector. Find out more here.