I’m the Peer Mentor Coordinator for Inspiring Change Manchester (ICM) and I work for Community Led Initiatives (CLI). CLI are a grass roots organisation formed by two men with lived experience of offending and substance misuse and the associated stigma and social exclusion.
Their life experience informed them, as together, they custom built an organisation and offer of support to people who shared similar barriers to a healthy and fulfilling life such as stigma, self-doubt, poverty, low educational attainment, criminal records and mental health problems.
I recruit, train, supervise and support people who have overcome problems in their life in relation to offending, addiction, mental health and/or homelessness so they provide invaluable mentoring to those currently facing these issues.
All our peer mentors have personal lived experience which means that they relate to the individuals we work with and help them overcome the barriers that so often stand in the way of people living a happy and fulfilling life. Peer Mentors support people through a process of change and reintegration which can at times seem overwhelming. They are a constant and dedicated support of a trusted non-authority figure that makes the process of moving forward more achievable. This includes helping people resolve stressful practical problems, find positive and fulfilling ways to spend their time, form positive social networks and secure education, training and employment.
Peer Mentors are also encouraged to get involved in anything else that they feel they can contribute to. This can be anything and, as well as the one-to-one peer mentoring work with clients, peer mentors attend meetings, drop-ins, training events and have also supported our clients to attend the recent Autumn event at our Hub which was a great success.
Peer Mentoring is also an ideal way of gaining some practical experience which helps gain employment in the future. Our mentors get the opportunity to complete a nationally recognised qualifications such as Level 3 Mentoring, Level 3 Health and Social Care and Level 3 Information, Advice and Guidance. Since we started working with ICM in April 2016, 4 of our peer mentors have already moved into paid employment!
We encourage our mentors to get involved in supporting wider systems change as well and some of our mentors have paired up with senior managers, commissioners and council leaders to look at how we can make public services more responsive to the needs of our service users.
The Peer Mentors have the support of myself and Ryan – our GROW Trainee, as well as the wider team which includes other mentors and the ICM engagement team. Peer Mentors receive day to day support as well as structured supervisions that give us the opportunity to discuss how things are going with the clients they are working with, how they are managing their work load, any issues or barriers they may be facing and also their own personal career development. We also have our own Facebook support group and offer the opportunity to attend monthly team meetings.
I’d encourage anyone who has overcome problems in their life relating to offending, addiction, mental health and/or homelessness to apply to become a peer mentor. It is an amazing feeling to know you’ve made a difference in someone’s life and people remember and appreciate the ways you’ve helped them for years to come. I couldn’t ask for a more rewarding job.
People can give me a call, send me an email or come into the Hub and I will be more than happy to have a coffee and a chat.