Addiction, Health, Behaviour Change | CGL

Peer mentoring at HMP Belmarsh

The Pathways to Recovery team in HMP Belmarsh supports service users to tackle their drug and alcohol use, stop reoffending and lead healthier lives, both within and beyond prison.

Pathways delivers structured treatment through the innovative Foundations to Recovery programme, which addresses substance misuse and its links to repeat offending and helps build recovery capital. The team includes a specialist family worker who addresses the impact of imprisonment and offending on family relationships, as well as peer mentors with personal experience of achieving recovery with Pathways' support.

The Pathways programme is enhanced by mutual aid whereby individuals can gain support from the fellowship of others who share their experiences and are working to achieve common goals, such as abstinence. The complementary therapy Mindfulness is also used to help alleviate stress, build stamina and maintain a healthy mind.

Participants are required to complete six weeks of rigorous training in modules including conflict resolution interpersonal skills and mentoring. At the end of this process participants receive an NVQ and can start working to support new individuals arriving at Belmarsh with drug or alcohol problems.

Peer Mentor Support

Peer Mentors are trained to support and motivate fellow prisoners who are working towards recovery. They are a vital element of the recovery programme providing motivation and a role model that demonstrates recovery is an achievable goal.

Peer Mentors can listen and share their experiences as well as providing practical advice around harm minimisation and relapse prevention. They provide particularly valuable support for new prisoners in the ‘first night’ centre and help prepare individuals for release by providing information about services out in the community.

The programme has been shown to dramatically improve the self-esteem of Peer Mentors themselves, in addition to supporting new service users on their own recovery journey.

Change Grow Live has recently launched a new film: ‘Changing lives at HMP Belmarsh’, featuring the experiences of three peer mentors and a graduate of the Scheme:



Community placements

In addition to volunteering within the prison, Peer Mentors who have completed the six week OCN level two diploma in peer mentoring and drug and alcohol awareness accredited training scheme can take up volunteer placements in the community with Change Grow Live on release. These placements offer valuable work experience and a positive way forward for individuals rebuilding their lives in the community.


  • 63 peer mentors have been trained since the scheme started in 2012.
  • 12 former prisoners have undertaken voluntary placements at a Change Grow Live project in South London and in the home counties.
  • Five peer mentors have transferred into open conditions on ROTL (Release On Temporary Licence) to continue giving support in the community.
  • One peer mentor has achieved a Level 2 Open College Network Award in Peer Mentoring.

"This is a genuinely groundbreaking initiative ... the only one of its kind in a high security prison" - Andy Davy, Head of Reducing Reoffending at HMP Belmarsh

Family support

The Pathways programme employs a specialist family worker who supports individuals and their families to rebuild relationships damaged by substance misuse and imprisonment.

The family worker supports individuals in prison, visits families at home, liaises with social workers and other agencies working with the family, mediates on family visits to the prison and provides emotional and practical support to family members, including children.

Pathways recognises the importance of family support in sustaining an individual’s desire to achieve recovery outside in the community. The family support programme is therefore an important element in helping to reduce reoffending by ensuring individuals have something positive to return to on release from HMP Belmarsh.



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  • I’ve been clean for exactly 176 days now. 

  • When I came to Belmarsh I felt so tired of going in and out of jail.

  • The Peer Mentor Scheme started off as a small idea of getting a few people together to support our clients.