Faith in Feltham - YOI wins award for volunteer support project
An innovative project that supports young men in Feltham young offender institution (YOI) by providing them with a volunteer mentor who shares their faith has received a national award.
The Feltham Community Chaplaincy Trust was presented with the award for Best Faith Alliance by Baroness Scotland, Minister for Criminal Justice and Offender Management, and Salima Hafejee, YJB Board Member, at a presentation ceremony, held at the Home Office, on Tuesday 8 May. The Diocese of Westminster has been involved in the Trust from its beginning, and has been able to support it financially. Several parishes in the Diocese are inviolevd in providing and supporting be-frienders for Catholcs boys on their release from Feltham.
The Youth Justice Alliances Awards recognise youth offending teams and secure establishments which have developed partnerships which are helping to combat offending and reoffending by under 17-year-olds.
The project works in partnership with faith commuities, voluntary and statutory organisations. It provides the vital support from within the community to help the young person reintergrate, to make the right choices to obtain education, training and employment and to halt their offending behaviour.
Young men in Feltham YOI who find or re-find faith are then matched with, and offered the support of, a trained volunteer mentor from their faith. This volunteer befriends and supports them up to and after they return to the community.
In addition to the volunteers the project employs two Community Chaplains, of Muslim and Christian faiths, who work within Feltham YOI and with community faith groups to encourage support and involvement in the scheme.
The project has 68 trained volunteers, from Muslim, mainstream Christian, Pentecostal and Hindu faiths and has helped provide support to around 40 young men.
Salima Hafejee, YJB Board Member, said: “Youth offending services are built around effective partnership working and alliances. Across the system we can see many examples of the innovative ways local services are collaborating with a range of partner organisations.
“These awards recognise those excellent alliances which bring significant benefits to victims, offenders and the wider community and, most importantly, which help young people engage in positive activities, learn new skills and stop their offending behaviour.
“The fantastic work of those involved in the Feltham Community Chaplaincy Trust, and particularly the all-important volunteers, demonstrates how by supporting young people who have offended we can help them to reintergrate themselves into our communities and to change their lives in a positive way.”
Lucia do Rosario, Community Chaplain and Project Director, said: “Since 2005 we have worked with a variety of faith organisations within the community to encourage support and get people involved and we now have an amazing number of dedicated volunteers, without whom this project would simply not happen.
“By giving the young men of Feltham the opportunity to be supported by people from their own faith and from the community they will be going back to we can help to improve community intergration. The volunteers help with developing contacts and access to employment and make that young person feel more accountable to the community for their actions on release, and this is why we have seen improvements in reducing reoffending rates.”
“I am extremely proud that the project has been recognised, and I feel that the credit must surely go to our many volunteers, and to our funders and supporters, including Feltham YOI, who have taken a risk on an innovative way of working and are starting to see some exciting results. I hope we can continue to encourage others to come and get involved and to help these young people to help themselves and get their lives back on track.”