With our new website live, we will continue our series featuring articles that focus on a ‘day in the life’ of people working in a variety of services and organisations across Ayrshire, whose dedication and efforts are key to reducing reoffending and improving outcomes for people caught up in the Justice system, their families, victims, and the community as a whole.
We would like to thank Charlene and Mary for sharing their story with us.
The Shine Women’s Mentoring Service has been established for nine years in Ayrshire and operates on a pan-Ayrshire basis. The service is provided as a public Social Partnership (PSP): a strategic partnership between public and voluntary sector organisations and is now available across Scotland.
The service supports women involved in the justice system who are currently serving a custodial sentence of less than four years and subject to a statutory order or are on remand or are subject to a Community Payback Order.
Mentoring is a way of helping and supporting women in achieving their goals. The Shine Women’s Mentoring Service provides women with a mentor who will provide support on a one-to-one basis with many of the issues they might face in the community.
Charlene has worked with Shine for more than 5 years, with her background originally in retail and hospitality. Charlene wanted a new challenge and signed up with Shine to undertake some volunteer work, she started off running a group work programme with Justice Services and then applied for an ‘As and When’ post and was successful. Charlene was allocated a small caseload and continued to run the group work programme. After a year, a full-time post became available, Charlene applied and was successful and that is where she is today. Charlene states she loves all aspects of her job and hopes to continue to help make change in the community working with women.
Mary is the newest member of the team, having worked with Shine for just 3 months, so is still finding her feet. Prior to this, Mary has experience working with Women’s Aid, Youth Justice Services and in Education as a Community Worker. Mary was able to draw on all her previous work experience and bring that into this role. Although the job is challenging at times, Mary continues to enjoy working with women to help empower them. She enjoys the challenges and is delighted to be part of such a small, dedicated team.
Mentoring is a way of helping and supporting women with many of the practical and emotional issues they might be facing. It is also a way of helping to build confidence, self-efficacy, and resilience.
A Shine Mentor will make an initial visit (either in prison or the community) and discuss issues and needs that need addressed and work with the woman to prepare and agree a care plan that will achieve these.
Shine Mentors undertake and complete a risk assessment on cases as part of their health and safety procedure. Mentors provide regular contact over a 6-month period and undertake regular reviews of the care plan to ensure that the women’s needs are being met. Mentors work closely with various statutory and third sector agencies within the community and provide them with regular updates.
“Being a Shine Mentor is not only a challenging role but also a very rewarding one.”
A typical day
There is no such thing as a typical day!
Each worker is allocated their own case load to manage. Charlene works across East Ayrshire, Judith our colleague covers South Ayrshire and Mary is in North Ayrshire but depending on each worker’s case load, we can be allocated out with their area.
A working day may consist of meeting with women in the community to support them to attend appointments in relation to their addiction, housing, or benefits, etc. We may also be required to undertake a prison visit or agent’s phone calls, attend meetings and adopting an advocacy role on behalf of the women.
Shine offer support to women in Greenock, Edinburgh, Polmont and Cornton Vale Prison. Twelve weeks prior to a woman’s EDL (earliest date of liberation) the Shine PBC (Prison Based Champion) will invite the woman for a meeting to talk a bit about Shine and how the service could support her in the community, if she agrees a referral is completed and sent for allocation. Once allocated to a worker, they will contact the relevant prison by email or phone to book a face-to-face appointment to go over the referral with the woman. An email a prisoner (EMAP) is then sent to the woman by the worker to introduce themselves and give a date and time they will be required to attend the initial meeting. It can be quite a long day travelling to and from prison for a 20-minute meeting but we think it is very important for this initial meeting to take place so a woman can put a face to a name and start building relationships before being released back into the community.
As a person-centred service, we adopt a holistic approach and are also concerned with the mental health and continued wellbeing of the women we support. As a service our practice continues to be underpinned by the principals and values of empowerment and supports women to rebuild lives.
Difficulties affecting our work during the pandemic
Covid has presented various challenges. As a ‘hands on service’, there has been limited face to face contact with women in custody and on remand. Some of our work is undertaken through agents calls and email a prisoner (EMAP). This presents some difficulties when arranging appointments and trying to collate further information required for risk assessments and community supports. It can also impact on building a positive relationship with women and acts as a barrier for future engagement.
Face to Face contact has now resumed and we feel the women are engaging better with the service as a lot of women during Covid were socially isolated and struggled badly with anxiety, having a one to one or meeting for a coffee was a big part of the service before and when that was taken away the women felt more isolated, and the relationship had to be built up again. We are now back to a hands-on service, attending appointments, meeting in the community, and supporting gate pick up’s, etc.
“We have all built up good working relationships with many services and workers and will continue to do so in the future.”
What we love about our job
Being a Shine Mentor is not only a challenging role but also a very rewarding one. We help women to achieve everyday goals and work towards a better future. The team are an amazing group of mentors and work hard to obtain the best possible outcomes for the women we support. We hope that we can continue to work together to make a change in the community and women’s lives in the future. We are proud and privileged to be part of this team.
Working across different localities can be challenging due to the ever-evolving services within Ayrshire. We have all built up good working relationships with many services and workers and will continue to do so in the future. We will attend new services within the area and familiarise ourselves with these to deliver a better service and support women in the community.
One thing we would change if we could?
If we had a magic wand, we would like to see more focused work specifically to address trauma, and sustained support given to help individuals build alternative (healthy) coping mechanisms across all the agencies or perhaps one agency set up specifically to deal with trauma? In an ideal world there would be a full range of support available which could be tailored to individual circumstances, and no long waiting lists to access this.
“Although new into the role I love the fact that each day is different and as a worker you are constantly challenged and learning new things.”
A personal reflection, one moment I will always remember
Charlene: One of the women I was supporting found it difficult to engage with services due to her previous experiences. I spent time getting to know her and build up a trusting, working relationship which took many months and there was a lot of support and confidence building over this time. The woman had complex mental health and drug misuse issues. As a result, she began to engage with Addiction Services and received the support that was required enabling her to stabilise and reduce her drug use. Her goals were to be drug free, in a loving relationship and have a settled way of life. With continued support and encouragement, she has achieved these goals and continues to thrive in the community. Although the case is now closed the woman sends regular updates and we chat from time to time.
Where i see myself in 5 years
Charlene: I can see myself still supporting women in a Justice setting in the future, I absolutely love my job and the people I work with and could not imagine changing my career at present.
Mary: I am very similar to Charlene and would like to continue working within the Justice setting supporting women. I have always been interested in the rights of individuals and recognise the importance of systematic change. Perhaps in the future I may consider a role that supports individuals to give them more of a voice but for the present I am very happy and intend to continue as a Shine mentor, with Barnardo’s.
Would i choose this path again?
Charlene: Yes, it is the best decision I have ever made. When working in hospitality and retail there was something missing, I was unhappy, I wasn’t challenged, I felt stuck but now I feel when I get up in the morning, I can hopefully help someone make a difference to their life and can continue to do so in the future.
Mary: I have always worked within a care / support setting with families, groups, or individuals. Although new into the role I love the fact that each day is different and as a worker you are constantly challenged and learning new things. I enjoy the contact with the women particularly when they begin to move forward and make small changes. To anyone considering working as a Shine Mentor I would say in my experience it has been very rewarding, helping women to help themselves and being part of a supportive team. What is not to like, just go for it!