Kirstie: ‘If my story and my role as peer mentor can help just one person, then I know I’ve done a good job’

Kirstie: ‘If my story and my role as peer mentor can help just one person, then I know I’ve done a good job’ image

Kirstie was sentenced to a 12-month community order and driving ban. Since then she has progressed well through her probation and now works as a peer mentor helping other through their induction and rehabilitation. Kirstie tells her full story here:

“At my first visit court hearing I was so scared. My two eldest daughters came with me because we all believed I’d be going to prison. We wanted to spend our last moments together. When it was adjourned to gather more evidence, the relief we all felt was unbelievable. We had another three weeks together as a family.

“When my second hearing came around, I was even more scared, especially when my own solicitor told me to expect the worst (ie prison). It was only towards the end of this second hearing, after the judge had bamboozled me with his words, my solicitor turned around to me with thumbs up.

“I suddenly comprehended how lucky I had been. Fair enough, I was still a convicted criminal, which was because of one stupid act. I’d lost my licence, my car and my job but I still had my relative freedom. I was not going to prison.

“All my appointments for probation were at Together Women Project, and obviously before my first appointment, I was nervous. I Just didn’t know what to expect. Would they just be judging me all the time, looking down their noses at me?

“I never expected my case workers to rock up in jeans and T-shirts with facial piercings and shaved hair! It immediately put me at ease. They were normal people! Who was judging who now eh?

“At first, I had weekly appointments, both at TWP and RENEW. These soon went to fortnightly, then once my 6-month ATR was over, my TWP appointments were monthly. I got so much help and support along the way. My confidence and self-esteem definitely improved.

“Looking back to when I was first sentenced, I was feeling really low and suffering with panic attacks and anxiety. I’m not going to lie. There was some faltering in the beginning, but once I got it into my head there was no point in lying about or covering up my problems, I managed much better. I was only really lying to myself.

“When I was first asked if I wanted to be a peer mentor, I still had around two to three months of my community order left. It felt good to know that despite everything, I could still be valued for being me and my experience as an ex-service user would actually be put to good use instead of acting against me.

‘I’m just so glad I can give something back to help to support current service users. My main piece of advice I always share to service users, is to be completely honest with your case manager. They will not judge but will only help.’

“So in November 2017, I started attending the weekly group induction sessions shadowing Hull staff. The first few weeks I just sat in and observed staff, chipping in every now and then, but very much in the background.

“Then just before one session was due to start, a situation arose where I ended up volunteering to deliver the group induction power point. That first time ‘solo’ was another turning point for me. It finally made me realise my confidence had returned for good and I could achieve so many things I thought I’d lost in the preceding years.

“As my mum put it, the old Kirst was back.

“Since starting on the peer mentor programme, I’ve had one minor blip, where my panic attacks returned. I quickly got to grips with this, partly down to the continued support from my peer mentor coordinator. She is fab and has a genuine enthusiasm for everything she does.

“I’m just so glad I can give something back to help to support current service users. My main piece of advice I always share to service users, is to be completely honest with your case manager. They will not judge but will only help. Don’t waste any of your time on your order lying to yourself like I did.

“Whilst every peer mentor and service user I meet has a different story and background to me, we all have one bond thing in common. If my story and my role as peer mentor can help just one person, then I know I’ve done a good job. I would love it if something full time came of this but for now I feel extremely happy and fulfilled in my role.”