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Durham Community Peer Mentor scheme receives national award

The community mentoring scheme has received the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

Durham’s Community Peer Mentor scheme is funded by County Durham, Darlington Police, and Crime and Victims’ Commissioner Joy Allen. To date the service has helped more than 1,000 vulnerable people across four years.

The scheme has six staff members and more than 100 volunteers – over 70 percent of whom have lived experiences that their clients may be asking for help with, including domestic and sexual abuse, homelessness, offending and recovery from substance misuse. More than 20 volunteers have been clients of the service themselves.

The project work has led to an 81 percent reduction in contact with frontline services. Many users have identified that without this support they would have taken their own lives.

The scheme requires that users want and have the capacity to change.

The College of Policing has recognised the scheme previously, posting a YouTube video about it in 2019.

The scheme is currently working on creating additional capacity for referrals from partners for alcohol and substance misuse in support of an NHS pilot. It has secured an £85,000 contract for the work.

This week, it is one of 244 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.  Recipients for the award are announced annually.

Commissioner Allen said: "I am extremely proud of the staff and volunteers who provide the Community Peer Mentor project for this prestigious award.

"This honour is a reflection of the fantastic work they do in our communities to support people out of crisis or challenging situations so they can lead happy and fulfilled lives.  This intervention has led to a dramatic reduction in contact with frontline services, freeing up critical capacity for our emergency services workers.

"I would like to thank all those volunteers who continue to keep the scheme running for the people of County Durham and Darlington. The mentors offer unique support to each client, with the aim of leaving individuals feeling safer and inspiring confidence. The difference they bring to our communities is simply immeasurable and I wish them further success in the future."

Jim Cunningham, Community Peer Mentor Manager, added: "We are extremely excited and humbled by this award which is a reflection of the fantastic work our volunteers do. They are the backbone of our Community Peer Mentor scheme and have been for the past eight years which is the reason for our continued success.

"These fantastic volunteers provide a voice in the formulation of support for the clients acting as advocates; their knowledge helps to educate, challenge, and change professionals preconceived thoughts and approaches. These dedicated volunteers provide a light to those in despair, comfort, hope and inspiration to those in a dark place. They ensure support is unique and bespoke to each client and that their voice will be heard and considered as one size does not fit all, because they have been there."

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