Our Peer Advisor Programme returns home to HMP Wandsworth

We will be training 50 men in HMP Wandsworth under our award-winning Peer Advisor Programme – the prison where it initially started with just a handful of prisoners in 2002.

We train serving prisoners and ex-offenders in the community to become skilled, professionals known as Peer Advisors who offer help and advice to their fellow prisoners.

They will meet the high levels of need amongst the prison population and help the prison give every prisoner who needs it high quality support.

Prisoners who train under the programme achieve a NVQ Level 3 in Information, Advice and Guidance which they can then put to use to gain employment upon release from prison.

Since its start in 2002, the Peer Advisor Programme has extended to 30 prisons across England and Wales and is also delivered in the community for ex-offenders and adults experiencing other forms of disadvantage. Since April 2011, 1,190 people have trained as Peer Advisors through St Giles Trust and 72% have successfully qualified at Level 3.

The Peer Advisors in HMP Wandsworth will work in a range of areas. These include helping new prisoners settle into prison, providing essential advice to all prisoners through Prisoner Information Desks, in healthcare supporting prisoners with a range of disabilities and preparing prisoners for their release.

Rob Owen OBE, Chief Executive of St Giles Trust, said:

“I am thrilled that we are able to once again work in HMP Wandsworth – the original hosts of the Peer Advisor Programme. Wearing their distinctive purple T-shirts, we will be able to create a ‘Purple Army’ who can support overstretched prison staff and help create a harmonious prison where those inside it can truly change their lives.”

He continued:
“The Programme is a win, win – it offers a transformational opportunity for those who train to become skilled professionals and uses their first hand experience of the criminal justice system to provide highly credible support. Ultimately, this is about reducing the number of future victims of crime to help ex-offenders successfully resettle in the community.”

Ian Bickers, Executive Governor of HMP Wandsworth, said:

"All the evidence points to the fact that - as well as helping others - being a Peer Advisor improves levels of self esteem, confidence and citizenship. Creating a 'Purple Army' will not only focus on the Level 3 qualifications identified as so important in the review by Dame Sally Coates but will also help the men access services currently not available to them. This decision is a step forward in the way we deliver education and services at HMP Wandsworth with advantages to the men we are working with, the staff and those we work in partnership with."

He continued:

"I am delighted to be working with St Giles Trust and look forward to celebrating the success of those most important in the Peer Advisor Programme - the men whose lives we hope to influence for the better."

St Giles Trust delivered the Peer Advisor Programme in HMP Wandsworth until service providers within the prison were changed under Transforming Rehabilitations reforms last year. Our new work with HMP Wandsworth comes after they accepted our proposal to deliver the Programme in the prison once more, following last May’s announcement giving the prison greater autonomy over its budget.

A 2015 external evaluation of the Peer Advisor Programme by PwC found that it delivered £8.54 in societal value for every £1 invested in it. PwC also concluded additional benefits to the Peer Advisors themselves in terms of training, employment and well-being.

Watch our 2012 50th Anniversary film here to learn more about how the Peer Advisor Programme was set up and hear from Tommy Penfold – one of the first men who trained through it.

Watch our animation film The Hard Cell here to hear more about how the programme works in practice and its potential benefits to society.