Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice

IAN SPARSHOTT (Hampshire & Isle of Wight CRC)

IAN SPARSHOTT (Hampshire & Isle of Wight CRC)

COMMENDEE 2020-21: Ian’s Commendation is for his extensive volunteer work, with Hampshire and Isle of Wight CRC, drawing on his own lived-experience to assist and mentor service users, including leading the Southampton Service User Network support group.

Dean Hatton, Team Manager and Initial Nominator, says that Ian has completed “over 555 hours volunteering with the CRC, both in the support group and meeting service users in the local area of Southampton. He also supports the volunteer scheme by assisting with newly recruited volunteers.”

Noting Ian’s recent and equally commendable celebration of 20 years of abstinence, Dean says “his commitment to provide a positive role model to service users who are still caught in the system is exemplary.”

Ian is also a volunteer mentor and founding member of the Southampton Service User Network (SUN) group, where he is, says Dean, “invaluable to the ongoing success of the network.” SUN is an innovative ex-service user led ‘drop-in service’, held away from the Probation Office providing “a welcoming environment in which service users can access support which offers a different perspective on an individual’s situation from volunteers who have been through a similar journey.”  Operating weekly, “Ian volunteers his time and is open with people that access the service about his own journey”, says Dean, who adds that “Ian’s enthusiasm for this voluntary role is aspirational and this has influenced the recruitment of more volunteers.” Dean also notes that “Ian’s commitment to the SUN service has meant that it has grown and gained momentum. Without Ian’s input, the viability of SUN would have been in question.”

“One of Ian’s greatest strengths is his encyclopaedic knowledge of local and national services and his commitment to ensuring that his knowledge remains current,” says Dean. He has successfully worked with some service users to gain housing, helping others to get in touch with employers to find part- or full-time employment, provided advocacy (taking people to Citizens Advice and appointments with drug services), and liaised with the local authority about housing transfer applications.

Nor has Ian’s commitment and support faltered during the Covid-19 pandemic, with Ian continuing to mentor five service users, supporting them to get further help from drug and alcohol rehabilitation agencies, completing door-step visits as needed to offer face-to-face support, and often, points out Dean, “eased the service users issues just by listening to them and praising their ability to remain drug and alcohol free during these very difficult times. Often the service users he is supporting have not seen family, friends or even their probation officers.”

Dean concludes by saying Ian has “a positive impact on service users, staff and volunteers alike. He shares his knowledge and experiences, and demonstrates to Responsible Officers the impact of change and a different way to empathise and engage, modelling the values we all aspire to,” and adds on a more personal note that “Ian is a constant reminder of why I do this job, and reminds us all that the capacity to change is within everyone.”

Barbara Swyer, Community Director and Butler Trust Local Champion says Ian “consistently demonstrates the significance of good listening skills to ensure he understands the service user’s key issues; he then signposts appropriately and supports the service user to attend. His commitment and his lived experience enable him to gain the respect of the service users and he quickly establishes empathetic connections.”

Barbara adds more details of Ian’s contributions during Covid-19, saying that as well as supporting service users, he assisted the Fair View charity by putting together food parcels for the vulnerable, delivering over a hundred food parcels, including to service users, some of whom, she says, were unable to go out “due to being scared or anxious or just through lack of money”.

“Ian is a true example of how service users can use their experiences to help others change their lives,” adds Barbara. “His commitment and his belief in service users assists in building their confidence in a positive future and finding ways to progress.  He is someone for whom volunteering has become a significant and meaningful part of his life and who inspires others to see that it is possible to change.”

Melanie Pearce, Director of Operations, says Ian “epitomises the possibilities of success, of creating lasting change and of giving back to the community to enable others to achieve real lasting change.” She, too, notes that Ian’s commitment to the SUN group “has undoubtedly enabled its survival and impact,” adding that “he has had a real impact on the development, support and motivation of other volunteers, playing a significant role in their training.”

She concludes by saying that:

“Ian provides an example to us all of what is achievable, how real long-lasting change is possible, and how effective real-life experience, demonstrating the values we aspire to, can go on to positively impact and support others. Ian’s commitment, impact and dedication absolutely stands out.”

Ian himself explains his voluntary work further, saying that he supports service users “either on a 1-2-1 basis meeting at coffee shops, library, drug and alcohol services and at the Peer Support group that runs on a weekly basis at the Parish Office Hub.” He says that “when the opportunity came to become a volunteer it was something I knew I had to do to provide the important support to service users and ultimately, by providing this intervention support, reduce reoffending and enable service users to address their addictions and lifestyle.”

He adds that he has worked with many service users with varying degree of issues/problems from addiction, mental health, isolation, employment problems, housing issues and much more. “I can easily relate to service users and am able to walk in their shoes, having done the journey myself and been in many of the situations they are currently in, when they are referred into the mentoring scheme. Not all service users adapt to being mentored and some take time to engage but with the right respectful approach many do change their lives around and become a valid part of the community once again”. He concludes by saying he is “passionate about working with those that have lost their way and need the support to get back on track.”

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