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‘Walking the walk’: Peer mentoring in a youth diversion service

Maxwell, Nina ORCID: and Ablitt, Jonathan 2022. ‘Walking the walk’: Peer mentoring in a youth diversion service. Presented at: EUROCRIM 2022: Annual Congress of the European Society of Criminolog, Malaga, Spain, 21-24 September 2022.

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The use of peer mentoring in the youth justice system has been increasing in the UK. Perceived as catalysts for desistance (Nixon, 2020), peer mentors are deemed to have enhanced credibility, acceptability, and insight due to their lived experiences (Maxwell and Corliss, 2020). Their role includes offering advice and support on a range of personal, social, and emotional issues based on their personal background (Creaney, 2020). Drawing upon findings from an independent evaluation of a UK third-sector proof of concept diversion service with 11–18 year olds on the cusp of or involved in serious organised crime, this paper considers the impact of peer mentors with lived experience of youth offending. The service was predicated on the notion that peer mentors are the crucial differentiator in diverting young people from career criminality and supporting them onto positive pathways. This paper draws upon the results from a larger mixed-methods study, and presents findings from semi-structured interviews with peer mentors, practitioners, young people and parents. Thematic analysis revealed that peer mentors emerged as a key mechanism through which service engagement was enhanced and through which changes in behaviour occurred. In their role in the service, peer mentors were perceived as credible role models (Kavanagh and Borril, 2013) who had an 'insider' understanding of the young people's experiences, motivations, obligations and complex vulnerabilities. They had ‘walked the walk’ themselves and personified a positive move away from career criminality, thus demonstrating and encouraging future-oriented possibilities for the young people engaged in the service.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2024 02:07

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