A spontaneous conversation in a probation office waiting room two years ago set 40-year-old Jahzeal Kennedy off on a journey he certainly hadn’t planned that day. Sparking a relationship with Ingeus, that conversation has led to mentoring others with similar backgrounds and ultimately finding paid employment.
“I’ve always loved to talk,” says Jahzeal. “And that day I sat in the waiting room with only two probation appointments left and I got talking to someone who reminded me of myself a few years previously. As I tried to explain to him how he’d benefit from sorting his life out sooner rather than later, the guy behind reception heard me and before I knew it I was signing up to be a peer mentor with Ingeus.”
Coming out of his final sentence in 2015, Jahzeal went through a series of jobs, ranging from warehouse operatives to pizza delivery. But when he started volunteering with Ingeus as a peer mentor in 2019 he knew he had found a role that meant so much more than money.
He explains, “My whole drive had always been money, but when I started as a peer mentor I knew I was doing something much more important. I immersed myself into the role and when I started getting feedback from Ingeus and other service users, I realised I had a skill with talking – I’d never been academic or achieved any qualifications before, so this recognition meant a lot to me.”
Jahzeal spent two years as a peer mentor, supporting people with similar stories to his, before gaining qualifications through Ingeus as a health trainer. Since then he’s taken on a paid role with Ingeus’s Commissioned Rehabilitative Services (CRS) as a personal wellbeing mentor, while also helping out as a health trainer until a full-time employee is recruited.
Ingeus’s Commissioned Rehabilitative Services (CRS) is part of the Ministry of Justice’s new probation system, which provide flexible, responsive services to help break the cycle of reoffending. They provide tailored support with accommodation, personal wellbeing and education, training and employment. Ingeus is now keen for Jahzeal to share his skills and experiences as a user of these services with others who may benefit.
With two former service users working alongside him, Jahzeal’s confident that together they’ll make a positive difference to other service users’ lives.
“Ingeus could have gone out and hired some academics,” he says. “But it could take them weeks to build a relationship with a service user while it can take me seconds. What I bring to the table couldn’t be written on a CV or taught in a school, and Ingeus can see the benefit in that.”