Can you support the biggest ever UK survey of peer mentors?

Service user volunteers are central to social justice services

Most organisations and charities in the criminal justice, drug and alcohol, homelessness and complex needs sectors involve current or former service users as volunteers who take on different roles (e.g. peer mentor/supporter or recovery navigator). Indeed, most organisations rely on service user volunteers to be able to deliver contracted services at the prices commissioners can pay post-austerity.  Research shows that this volunteering is highly valuable:

  • Service user volunteers benefit from opportunities to “give back” and learn new skills, and volunteering can also help with recovery journeys
  • Organisations and charities are able to provide service users with more support, as service user volunteers are able to build trusting relationships based on shared experience

But how are they treated?

The challenge is that the treatment of service user volunteers varies from excellent to poor. Whilst many receive the training and on-going support they need to succeed, including with opportunities to progress into paid employment, others receive little to no training and ongoing support, and often have little choice about what role they take as volunteers. Indeed, some are not even recompensed for the financial costs of their volunteering.

A best practice guide

To address these concerns, the Oak Foundation has funded Russell Webster and Revolving Doors Agency to co-produce a guide to enable organisations to provide the best support to service users working as volunteers. This guide will be shared widely so that organisations are aware of best practice and commissioners can award contracts to organisations who treat their service user volunteers well and with the support they need to succeed.

The format and the content of this guide will be led jointly by a group of people with lived experience of being service user volunteers  and Russell Webster.

The survey

To ensure this guide locates examples of best practice and is informed by current evidence, the organisers are undertaking what they hope will be the largest ever survey in the UK enquiring about people’s experiences as a service user volunteer.

If you work with service user volunteers, or peer mentors or any similar role, please encourage them to spare 15 minutes of their time in taking the survey, via this link.

For more information on the survey or the project, please email Russell Webster