Ex-offenders and Volunteering
I have worked in the third sector for over a decade - and yet I’ve only worked alongside ex-offender volunteers a handful of times. It wasn’t until Medway Volunteer Network started to speak to so many organisations that support ex-offenders, and those who welcome them as volunteers, that I really began to question, why?
After a brief time researching organisations that support ex-offenders in the area, we confirmed that volunteering has real benefits both to the individuals and to the organisations who recruit them.
Volunteering can reduce the rate of re-offending and by engaging people with criminal convictions you are enabling them to become a part of their community. Just like any other volunteer an ex-offender can learn new skills and have new experiences that can help them in gaining employment.
Kent, Sussex and Surrey CRC believes volunteering can have a positive impact, explaining that ‘many offenders have a huge amount of skill and experiences that can support and benefit many services in the community’.
Organisations that actively target ex-offenders are opening up a wider pool of volunteers with a wealth of experience that many other volunteers may not. An example might be an ex-offender with lived experience of gang culture who could give talks or advise on how your organisation’s processes could be developed to support clients more effectively. Of course, every volunteer has individual interests and they may want to learn new skills instead of drawing on their own experiences. Be open minded when talking to all volunteers and look at whether their skills and experiences make them the right person for the role they have applied for.
By recruiting ex-offenders an organisation demonstrates their commitment to diversity and equality, and that all volunteers must be treated the same and assessed on the basis of their suitability for the role.
Although it is unlikely that an ex-offenders past convictions will have any bearing on their suitability to volunteer there may be some instances where it might not be straight forward. An example might be befriending as a volunteer role may require a volunteer to work independently with a vulnerable person which there may be a need for additional policies and a review of your procedures. To find out more about the things you may need to consider NCVO has some guidance.
Unfortunately some people won’t be eligible to volunteer at all due to the seriousness of their conviction. It is a criminal offence for an organisation
to knowingly recruit anyone who appears on the DBS barred list, so you’ll need to make sure your organisation is clear about the rules – and you can
more about this from Unlock's Practical Guide to criminal record disclosure legislation and assessing criminal records
We understand that for some organisations, concerns about such things as risk, disclosure or complicated new procedures act as barrier to engaging ex-offenders
with their volunteering opportunities. Medway Volunteer Network is aiming to help overcome such barriers – inviting organisations to share their experiences
and to draw upon best-practice and learning that will facilitate ex-offenders to volunteer locally.
We’ve recently been talking with Michelle Trumper, Volunteer Coordinator for wHoo Cares, and providing some information about supporting ex-offenders to engage with volunteering opportunities. She’s agreed to talk about her experiences to date in our next blog post…so look out for this and message or contact us if you’d like to join our drive to tackle barriers and engage more ex-offenders with volunteering in Medway.
Author: Clare Saunders, Medway Voluntary Action
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