Realising I could make changes whilst I was in prison helped me to turn my life around – I now work with others who want to do the same thing.
I work as a Senior Employment Mentor for Platfform’s Peer Mentoring Service and specialise in getting young people who have spent time in prison or experienced drug and alcohol problems into training, volunteering or work. This involves coaching, confidence building, focusing on people’s strengths and helping them to make positive changes.
I have experience of making these changes myself, having struggled following the death of my mother when I was 18. At that time I was very angry with the world, I got in with the wrong crowd, started drinking and got into the occasional fight – I was on a downwards spiral. This lifestyle meant that I made the wrong choices and was arrested on a couple of occasions. I was given a 3 month prison sentence which was the wake up call that I needed.
It’s strange to think that I needed things to get that bad but once I was in prison I realised that I wasn’t on the path that was meant for me, I had to make some changes
Whilst in prison I became motivated to better myself as much as possible, so I signed up for as many courses and training opportunities as I could. The prison Welfare Officer noticed that I enjoyed and had a talent for mentoring and suggested that I sign up to a course. I soon started advising and helping other inmates when they needed and before I knew it I had several qualifications to take home with me.
When I was in prison I was told that I would really struggle to get work but this just motivated me to prove people wrong
When I was released from prison I attended an open day at the Job Centre which is where I found out about Platfform’s Peer Mentoring Service.
I completed some courses through Platfform and was really encouraged to pursue the peer mentoring path that I had started in prison. I didn’t really believe in myself at this point, I hadn’t done well in school as I was barely there due to looking after my mum and thought that I’d struggle with the application form, let alone getting the job. One of the staff at Platfform was so supportive and gave me the push and encouragement I needed, after a couple of attempts I was offered a Peer Mentoring role with DrugAid.
Following that, I secured a role with Platfform and have since been promoted to Senior Employment Mentor. I help people who are going through similar situations to what I experienced to make changes and get a job. It’s been a massive change in my life, I’m now able to pay my mortgage and support my children, I have a purpose and see a change in the people I work with which is massively rewarding.
I deeply regret the things I did in the past but am so grateful that I was able to turn it all around and I now show people that they are able to do the same if they want. I struggled for a long time with the death of my mother and dealt with my emotions in ways that didn’t help me but I now know what I need to do to feel good. Regular exercise so that I can sleep well is important for me, so I go to the gym frequently and lead a much healthier lifestyle. I am also very open and speak to people when I need to, I’m completely honest with people at work and they all know what I’ve been through and this actually helps too.
When I’m working with people I like to remind them that anyone can turn their life around if they want to, no matter what anyone else says to you – I did!
Jay’s experience as a peer mentor
Jay has the highest number of employment outcomes in the Peer Mentoring Service Wales-wide and he has been asked to share best practice with similar services. Jay works collaboratively with probation services, Job Centres and recovery services to create referral pathways. Jay has found a real niche with the people he works with – he finds appropriate training and education opportunities for each person helping to reduce the likelihood of relapse during recovery – keeping people engaged whilst also enhancing their self-esteem.