Thoughts, stories and events to share

Positive Outcomes from Lived Experience

Sophie O'Sullivan, about 4 years ago

This week on the blog we will reconnect with User Voice and learn more about Sally's role within the organisation. Please do have a read of our previous collaborative blog to find out more about how User Voice was founded and their current impact.

Sally joined User Voice as a council member. She then volunteered for 10 months, before feeling ready to take the next step onto paid employment.

Sally was offered a role within the probation service, having the full support of User Voice behind her during the application and interview stage. However, the DBS check was delayed.

Luckily a position at User Voice opened and she decided to apply whist she was waiting for the disclosure check to process for the probation role. After a great interview, she successfully gained a sustainable paid role as a part-time engagement team member. This shows that User Voice are committed to progressing volunteers internally within their organisation.

As part of her role within the engagement team, she worked across Kent, Surrey and Sussex and this meant that she could better support her family. User Voice were impressed with her commitment and tenacity and so further invested in her potential. She is currently on a highly prestigious management development programme. She hopes to use this as a stepping stone for further progression. Sally co-manages operations in London and the South East and regularly works with key stakeholders from prison governors to business leaders. Impressively, Sally has been in continuous employment at User Voice for two and a half years.

For Sally,

User Voice is where I belong. I have found my home at User Voice.

She told us that the most challenging aspect of her experience was taking that first step right at the beginning of her journey when she became a council member. Her hard-work ethic and dedication to using her own experience to help others is deeply inspiring. Sally revealed to us that the best part of her job is overseeing and supporting council members, when they feel ready and able to progress, onto voluntary work, training or employment.

As part of the volunteering opportunities at User Voice, members can gain a level one qualification in working as a service user representative. This training is accessible to all and is a real confidence booster, providing a sense of achievement through upskilling individuals. The next step after this might involve volunteering in the community, then moving onto a part time role before securing full-time sustainable employment. Candidates may volunteer for up to 12 months. After this period, the main goal is securing meaningful employment- this might be internally within User Voice or externally.

Sally emphasises the importance of volunteering:

It feels like the biggest win.

It is a huge step in rebuilding confidence as people take on the extremely difficult challenge of working through past trauma, getting back on their feet, re-entering society and going back into the working world.

Her best tips for new employers looking to open up their recruitment to include those with a conviction is to

make sure people know that you believe in them.

Sally also recommends that employers take a staggered approach so that they don't set up people to fail. Perhaps this might be starting an entry-level role on a part-time basis before working up to full-time. This is the best way to ensure that candidates can progress at their own pace.

Sally also highlights the multiple barriers that people may face on their employment journey. For example, this may be not having the train fare to attend an interview. Employers should look at how best they can accommodate the needs of a candidate. This can be achieved through collaboration or partnership work with relevant third sector organisations in your local area.

User Voice have many exciting opportunities listed on their website.

If you give someone that one chance to move away from an offending lifestyle, you are going to get 110% out of them. They will cherish the opportunity to move forward with their lives.