Eleanor De, about 4 years ago
Despite the fact that 18-25 year olds have some of the highest reoffending rates of any demographic, there is relatively little support concentrated in youth justice.
That's where Trailblazers Mentoring Ltd comes in. Established in 1998, they aim to equip young people with the skills, drive and determination to succeed in a life free from crime. Since young people have many years ahead of them, reducing their reoffending rates has a potentially significant long term impact. To participate in the Trailblazers' mentoring programme, young people can self-refer or prison staff and other agencies can refer them. Trailblazers then recruit, train and match suitable volunteer mentors with young offenders who have asked to be mentored.
They now have programmes operating in multiple locations: HMYOI Aylesbury (the Registered Office), HMP/YOI Brinsford (Wolverhampton), HMP/YOI Isis (London), and HMP Wandsworth.
The mentor meets the young offender approximately six months before his release date and during weekly visits, endeavours to build up a relationship of trust. Upon release, the mentor keeps in regular contact with the young person as a source of support and advice for a period of up to 12 months.
"I expected help but the help I got was so much more. My mentor has done everything possible to help me and gone out of her way. Anything I wanted to talk about I could. I felt comfortable with my mentor and knew that I would get the best advice.... Prison life has been so much easier. Having something to focus on and starting to get my career started. I actually think about things instead of just doing them. Think and plan how I want my life and look at myself as though I have a second chance and don't waste it" - J – a mentee at HMYOI Brinsford
Due to the fact that many of the mentees are young and have little experience in employment or with everyday responsibilities, the support is designed to prepare them for adult life in the community and is built around 6 toolsets:
1. Introduction to mentoring
2. Better relationships
3. Asserting myself
4. Money matters
5. Back to work
6. Through the gate
These steps include talking therapies as well working closely with other agencies to provide practical support including CV creation, disclosure letters and interview preparation. The mentors themselves have various backgrounds as qualified life coaches, therapists and successful business owners so they can offer different support and their specific qualities are considered when they are matched with a young person.
"Having a mentor has really helped me to understand the business world and how to set up a business and become self-employed upon release. I didn't think I would be able to understand running my own business but Martin has helped me to fully understand how and what I need to do. This gives me self-confidence to believe in myself... Being in prisons often feels like you are looked down upon, but Martin has shown me that this is not always true and there are people who do want to give their time to support us ready for release. Thank you." R – mentee at HMYOI Aylesbury
Since the organisation was established, many young people have gone on to receive further qualifications at college, or as part of apprenticeships and construction courses and some have gone to university. Others have found full-time employment, part-time employment and voluntary work. All of the work with the mentees is recorded and tracked on the in-house data management system to assess the success in education engagement, training and employment, as well as reoffending rates. Trailblazers also looks to measure 'soft skills' as well such as the emotional impact of the mentoring, the improvement in family relationships, anger management and self-confidence.
At the time of the last publication of statistics, Trailblazers' mentees had a reoffending rate of just 19%, compared to the national average of 56% for 18-21 year olds and there are now over 200 volunteer mentors signed up to their programmes.
"Thank you. That's all I want to say. If I can ever pay you back, I will" A – a mentee at HMP Isis