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Title: "She helps me to cope" : an exploration of the experiences of women at the Sacro Women's Mentoring Service
Author: Tolland, Heather
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 9155
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2016
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Mentoring has become increasingly popular in recent years in the criminal justice system, and has been recommended by the Scottish Government as a service that can address the specific ‘needs’ of women who offend. Despite the popularity of mentoring, there has been limited evidence to suggest that it reduces reoffending of women, or facilitates significant changes in their lives. In addition, there has been a lack of clarity around the definition of mentoring, including role definition, the extent of intensive support offered and the key aims of the service. This thesis (in collaboration with Sacro and the University of Stirling), explores the experiences of women who have accessed the Sacro Women’s Mentoring Service and accounts from mentors and staff to establish what the key aims and processes of mentoring are, alongside a critique of whether this offers an approach that can address key issues related to the marginalisation of these women. Findings from the data revealed that mentoring consisted of practical support, helping women to respond to difficulties related to poverty and their disadvantaged circumstances generally. The most common outcomes for women were: engagement with agencies; increases in confidence and self-esteem and improvements in emotional well-being. The rhetoric of mentoring offered by mentors and staff suggested that mentoring was based on an individualistic approach that contained responsibilising strategies, aimed at helping women to make improved choices and become responsible citizens. In practice, however, mentors were helping women to resolve issues related to the welfare system and other services outwith the criminal justice system. Many mentors and staff viewed mentoring as role modelling, however, women who accessed the service were more likely to view their mentor as a friend and ‘someone to talk to’ suggesting that the relationship was not an opportunity for women to model the behaviours of their mentor, but as emotional support and a release from their social isolation. This disconnect was also reflected in ‘imaginary penalities’ which were observed, such as staff completing paperwork they did not view as relevant to the service they delivered or staff being sent on training that they could not apply to the work they delivered on a day to day basis. This may be a result of the increasing marketisation of mentoring within the criminal justice system. Those services labelled as ‘mentoring’ may be more likely to gain funding as it is a service that is currently favoured by statutory funders in Scotland. If positive outcomes of mentoring are viewed by policy makers to be the result of an individualistic approach, and not mentors addressing problems outwith the criminal justice system, as best as they can, then this takes responsibility away from the state to make changes to policy. It also places unrealistic expectations on mentors to make significant changes to the lives of women in an environment of continuing funding cuts to welfare and services.
Supervisor: Malloch, Margaret ; McIvor, Gill ; Graham, Hannah Sponsor: Sacro ; University of Stirling
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: mentoring ; women in prison ; women offenders ; desistance ; criminal justice ; poverty ; individualised approach ; responsibilisation ; Female offenders--Rehabilitation ; Mentoring