“Volunteering provides an opportunity to try and put something back” – (RG, volunteer)
Volunteering provides you with the opportunity to do something useful for your local community. You won’t get paid (apart from pre-agreed expenses) but you will feel the satisfaction of time and effort well spent. You will also meet new people, learn new skills and gain useful experience. Crucially, it enables you to really make a difference in the lives of children, their families or carers and victims.
What do I need?
You don’t necessarily need to give up a great deal of your time although you will need to be over 18 years of age. The following skills and qualities will be useful:
- Good communication skills
- Good team-working skills
What opportunities are there in youth justice?
West Mercia Youth Justice Service requires the involvement of our local community’s in Telford & Wrekin, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, so there are various volunteering opportunities within the youth justice service which include.
- Referral Order Panel Member
- Mentoring Young People
- Out of Court Disposal Community Panel Member
What is the process?
You will need to complete an application form, attend an interview and complete all required training before you will be able to start your volunteering role. How long this takes depends on your availability as well as pre-set training dates, which means that there may be times when you have to wait a little while before you are able to start.
What should I expect when I volunteer?
The training I received was very well considered, well organised, professionally executed and intelligently managed (Ray, volunteer)
When you volunteer with West Mercia YJS you should expect the following:
- To receive training
- To complete a criminal records check – you will need to disclose any previous convictions or investigations by the police (Disclosure and Barring Service)
- To receive reasonable expenses to get to and from your work
- To receive information and training about health and safety.
Referral Order Panels
‘My 20 years working on Referral Order Panels have been very satisfying. To feel that one might have had some influence on a young person’s life and helped them move forward in a positive way, is both humbling and rewarding.’ (Maya, volunteer)
Volunteers are needed to join ‘Referral Order Panels’ across the West Mercia in the role of volunteer Community Panel Members. If you become a panel member you will be joining the thousands of volunteers who are already seeing their efforts pay off to tackle crime in their area.
What are Referral Order Panels?
Referral Order Panels are led by volunteer Community Panel Members. It is a meeting where; children that have offended and received a Referral Order, their parents or carers, those harmed (victims) and members of the community have the opportunity to come together to consider what support the child may need to assist in their desistence journey and to give the victim a voice.
A Referral Order Panel consists of two trained volunteers from the local community (volunteer Community Panel Members (CPM)), alongside a member of the YJS. The panel will meet with the child and their parents or carers, to talk about what happened and start considering the impact on the victims or community. At the initial meeting, a tailor made individual contract is co-created with the child and it aims to repair the harm and increase positive factors in the child’s life (which will support their desistence journey).
The contract is supervised by the WMYJS but reviewed (generally every three months) by the CPM at Review Panel meetings. In cases where the child fails to comply, the CPM must evaluate and consider, with the YJS returning the child back to Court. The CPM will also consider where an extension to their Referral Order could be offered by the court.
Volunteers may minimally spend about three hours a fortnight working on a panel. Panel meetings generally take place after school or work time, although where appropriate they can also take place during daytime.
If you decide to become a panel member, you’ll receive specific training on how panels work and your role in the process; Restorative Justice and communication and all other aspect of your role
‘Every child is the light of the future’ (Arinda, volunteer)
Mentoring is about supporting children with a variety of personal aspects of their lives – this may include engaging in education, training and employment or more simply being a friendly face in difficult times for that child. A mentor should support children to achieve their potential and also be a positive adult role model.
Being a mentor requires you to take an interest in the child with whom you work and encourage them to keep working at the areas which have been identified as key to support desistence.
Mentoring provides a one-to-one personal relationship that can act as a protective factor and provide them with opportunities for success. It can also support children away from some of their negative experiences that increase the risk of children coming into contact in further criminality.
The child-centred approach to mentoring allows the child to consider what they need in order to succeed in their life. Mentoring generally takes place when you are available and when it is suitable for the young person, taking into account that mentoring is child centred, so commitment may be weekly or more frequent.
What is an Out of Court Disposal (OoCD) Community Panel Member?
Being an OoCD community panel member requires volunteers to join the Police and WMYJS professionals and their partners in a meeting to jointly decide on an appropriate outcome for young people who have offended. It is usually (although not exclusively) reserved for young people who have only just started to break the law. This forum is used to divert young people away from Court in an attempt to avoid ‘criminalisation’ and help them develop a positive future.
The role of the community panel member is to act as the voice of the community and put forward suggestions and ideas as to how the young person can take steps to repair any harm they have caused, particularly to their local community.
Who should I contact if I am interested?
To volunteer for the roles listed here, you should get in touch with your local area West Mercia Youth Justice Service (WMYJS) and ask for the contact details of the Volunteer Development Officer.