re:shape is a charity that specialises in leading a community response to sexual harm. Here we hear more about their work and an appeal for volunteers...

The overall mission of re:shape is ‘No More Victims’. At the time of writing, the charity was looking for more volunteers to help them rehabilitate offenders back into the community, and particularly in the south of our diocese in the areas around Boston and Spalding. The role of volunteers is to form ‘Circles of Support and Accountability’ around the former offender [former offenders are referred to as ‘core members’ (CMs)]. CMs are referred to re:shape mainly by the police and probation service but referrals are also received from other services. Volunteers play an important role by supporting CMs to re-integrate back into the community through both support and accountability.

CMs have to be committed to the Circle and to accept that they want to live a life free of offending. As many have recently been released from prison they might feel anxious and stressed about being away from their usual structured environment and feel that they might be at risk of reoffending so as just to return there.

The assessment is carried out by the re:shape coordinator, not with the volunteers. The coordinator is aware of the CM’s full history and when assessing volunteers for the Circle they will be told brief details of their offending so they can say whether they wish to be involved in that Circle or not. The volunteers will then be matched to the CM. Once the Circle begins there will be a disclosure meeting where the CM will disclose his offending history to the volunteers.

As part of the criteria the CM has to admit his offending and will discuss it with the volunteers. Each CM is assigned four to five volunteers who help them to rehabilitate back into the community. This could include helping them with their CV to find work, giving advice on budgeting and managing their finances, and enabling them to make contacts with social groups, all with the aim of reducing social isolation, which is a key factor in re-offending.

Every meeting with the CM must have three volunteers present, with each meeting lasting two hours (one of which is spent directly with the CM). Volunteers come from a variety of different backgrounds but it is essential that volunteers are emotionally resilient and are empathic. They must also be committed to supporting the CM whilst holding them accountable for their behaviour.

Volunteers receive full training and ongoing support to enable them, in turn, to support and appropriately hold to account the CM. With reference to the role played by volunteers, Nicky Linn, Lincolnshire Interventions Co-ordinator with re:shape, has said: “Our volunteers are amazing people who make a huge difference to the lives of our CMs, helping them change their lives for good.

“We started in Lincolnshire in 2016 and most of our volunteers are still working with us. A lot of people may find it hard to understand what motivates people to work with sex offenders but many people see now that they cannot stay in prison forever and have to be rehabilitated into community. Our Circles are there to protect communities and to stop there being further victims. Importantly most offenders do want a new start and to be a better person and we can help them achieve that.”

More details are available here.