St Giles Trust is dedicated to helping people with severe disadvantage find jobs, homes and support. Its Peer Advisor Programme was first developed in 2002 at HMP Wandsworth to train serving prisoners to give advice and guidance to fellow inmates. It has since expanded to 30 prisons and youth offending centres across the United Kingdom. National Lottery funding has allowed the model to be rolled out to help those in the community, particularly ex-offenders, addicts and homeless people, through a system of Peer Hubs.
The hubs recruit ex-offenders or those out on licence, former addicts, reformed gang members, people who have experience of mental health issues and those who have overcome homelessness to become Peer Advisors. They also undertake a two-day-a-week work placement with St Giles Trust or one of 22 partner organisations, providing support to others who have similar difficulties to the ones they have overcome. The full training process takes six to eight months.
In the Peer Hub in Camberwell, South London, around 85 per cent of participants are non-white and 12 per cent have disabilities. Due to their disadvantaged backgrounds, many will have not had the opportunity to gain qualifications and lack the confidence to engage with mainstream education and training opportunities. After completing their qualification, a project support worker provides employability training and there is a Peer Hub Job Club offering employment opportunities, support with applications and interview preparation. Evaluation by Price Waterhouse Coopers found that for every £1 put into the scheme, a saving of £8.54 was achieved for society.
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