42-year old John Rudd left prison with just a £50 discharge grant and his travel warrant. Determined to seize every opportunity he could, he is now working full time whilst volunteering as a Peer Advisor and studying at college. He found time in his busy schedule to tell us about his experiences.
“I saw a flyer in prison for the Peer Advisor course and thought ‘That sounds like a bit of me.’ Unfortunately, I was only doing six months so missed the opportunity to do it. However, when I was released into the community I jumped at the chance.”
John is from Huntingdon and came into contact with St Giles Trust’s team in the Eastern region who provide custody and community-based support for people with convictions. “I had done care work in the past but couldn’t go back to that anymore. I wanted to do the Peer Advisor course as I like helping other people and wanted to give something back. It gives you the chance to make a negative into a positive and I could also become a role model for my kids and others.”
He has secured a full-time paid job. Alongside this and college, he volunteers as a caseworker at St Giles Trust at least one day a week, helping people with a criminal conviction get help with housing and employment – two fundamental issues facing people who have been in prison. He has now progressed to having his own caseload to manage.
“I work with my colleague to run a job shop every Monday,” John explains. “Mostly, the clients need help because they are of no fixed abode and are having difficulty finding work with their conviction. We help with things like disclosures, developing CVs, making applications and I’ve recently got a couple of lads into employment at a local charity.” He feels it is important that his clients have a routine and structure. “It’s important to get them up and doing something. A lot of them have issues with alcohol dependence.”
John works in a close knit community. Whilst it might not have the same scale of services and support as a big city, he says that they all pull together to help each other out. The team have good links with the local council, other charities and can signpost their clients to them and other services when needed.
Having been in the criminal justice system himself has a positive impact on the work he does with his clients. “I know how it works and what did and didn’t work for me. For example, I had no money during my sentence or on release so I know how it is to have money problems. Now I’m working full time with somewhere to live so things are much better.”
Alongside these benefits, St Giles Trust has helped him develop in other ways. He is on his way to achieving his next goal of paid work in peer-led support role. “Firstly, it’s obviously keeping me out of trouble as I’m a role model to others. But it’s also put me in a good light - given me a second chance and a career.”