Toolkit created to support organisations recruit volunteers with criminal convictions

Following the success of the Giving Time project, Voluntary Action Leeds has produced a comprehensive toolkit to support organisations to recruit volunteers with criminal convictions. The toolkit provides guidelines around considerations of organisations when assessing potential volunteers, ensuring their processes are inclusive and safe for staff, volunteers and service users.

About to enter its sixth successful year, Giving Time was established in 2014 as a project of Voluntary Action Leeds, with the aim of providing a brokerage service linking adults with criminal convictions, to volunteer opportunities. This could be either for serving prisoners or within the community.

The principle aims of the project are to improve the social skills, mental health and life chances of volunteers; whilst reducing isolation and reoffending, and aid reintegration back into communities.

Andrina Dawson, Co-ordinator for Giving Time said;

“Volunteering can be an effective means of reducing reoffending and supporting rehabilitation. It provides volunteers with an opportunity to ‘break the cycle’ and step away from criminality, whilst enabling them to build their confidence and self-esteem.”

By including volunteers with criminal convictions, the Giving Time team were keen to promote a fully inclusive volunteer programme, addressing the benefits to the organisation of a diverse selection of volunteers and non-discriminatory recruitment policy. The project highlighted that people with criminal convictions can bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to an organisation which should not be overlooked.

Hyde Park Source commented:

“It makes us feel comfortable, in saying that we are welcoming to everyone. As an organisation, we are proud to say that we have volunteers with criminal convictions.”

Project outcomes

A recent evaluation of the project reported its outcomes and impact to the volunteers, organisations and communities. The report found that feedback from the service users was very positive. Many expressed their thanks to the team for the non judgemental approach and support.

One volunteer said:

“Volunteering has given me a different outlook on life, more possibilities. It has helped me meet new people that I wouldn’t have met before and has broadened my horizons.”

The report highlights the success of the project as delivering a reduction in crime and reoffending whilst also increasing employability.

Many people with criminal convictions experience difficulty reintegrating into society, however volunteering can provide an opportunity to gain new skills and build self-confidence and self-esteem. Through delivering these opportunities the project has succeeded in reducing social exclusion, improved the well being of users and eased their integration back into communities.

Change, Grow, Live said:

“[Giving Time] gives hope to people with criminal convictions - people think that they can’t volunteer, that they can’t do things. It gives hope that it might lead to employment.”

A volunteer added:

“Volunteering has given me independence and the chance to help. It’s given me purpose.”

Unexpected outcomes of the project also included a reduction in alcohol and drug use, changes to attitudes, thinking and behaviour and improvements in mental health.

According to the evaluation report, the cost benefit for year 5 estimated a saving to the public purse of £484,660, or, for every £1 invested £6.08 was saved in criminal justice costs. Over the lifetime of the project this is an estimated £2,275,660

Outcomes for Organisations

As well as positive outcomes for the individual users, the report found a number of benefits for the organisations involved. Those interviewed highly praised the Giving Time service, process, the staff and the difference the project has made to their organisation and the volunteers. On evaluation it was found that the organisations appreciated the specialist nature of the programme, particularly in relation to disclosure and risk management, which allowed for the ease of using the service and the beneficial results.

One Volunteer Manager said:

“The Giving Time team helped us create a robust process for interviewing and inducting volunteers, including completing a volunteer agreement, personal risk assessment and management plan. We have also attended training through Giving Time up-skilling our staff so we feel confident to manage volunteers out on site and deal with any issues which arise.”

The Future of Giving Time

The success of the project has resulted in Voluntary Action Leeds securing a further 3 years funding from The National Lottery, and has enabled them to share their learnings with a national audience. The production of the Giving Time Toolkit aims to support the delivery of the model in other areas, providing a model which is safe and supportive for the service users and organisations, and resulting in increased benefits throughout the UK.

If you would like more information about  implementing the Giving Time franchise in your area, or a more detailed Delivery Guide, please contact Voluntary Action Leeds on 0113 297 7920.


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