The Volunteer Centre is 53 this year, old enough to have seen how hard it is for some people to overcome the barriers they face to achieving their potential, and to have tried to do something about it.
That’s why we have programmes like InsideOut, working with people with criminal records, some of whom have a lot to prove, but also face serious discrimination when it comes to living independently. Those challenges have become even more severe since the start of the pandemic, with prison and probation staff shrinking (so much less access to the pre- and post-release support that makes the difference between a life outside prison and a return to custody).
Our InsideOut Coordinator, Jason, now spends more of his time helping ex-offenders find or keep accommodation because it’s almost impossible to help someone find and keep paid work if they don’t have a safe place to call home. It can take a long time to get housing sorted for these clients – many face the bind that the accommodation they’re placed in when they’re released is so expensive that no job they can get as a newly released person can cover the full costs. This presents a big barrier to independent living for some because they can’t afford to move from social security to paid work – the housing costs are just too great.
As always, we’re pleased to be able to help volunteers to secure inclusive, positive roles, but where people are hoping to use these as a stepping stone to paid work, it’s frustrating to find that they can’t and that the solution is largely beyond our control. We never give up though – when we learn these lessons from our clients we share them with our peers, partners, funders, and decision-makers, and sometimes they contribute to change – first a change in thinking, then a change in behaviour.
Michael Ashe, CEO