Being a Switchback Mentor is a unique opportunity to build transformative relationships with young men leaving prison in London, supporting Switchback Trainees to find a way out of the justice system and build a stable, rewarding life.
Switchback Mentors go into prisons to directly engage young men and continue that intensive support after release with a small caseload in the community. Our long-term approach means that Switchback Trainees are five times less likely to return to custody.
Switchback is growing fast and setting our sights higher than ever, aiming to reach even more prison-leavers while inspiring change across the system. To do so we need more amazing people to become Switchback Mentors supporting young men through-the-gate. That’s where you come in.
”“There’s not really one word to describe the relationship with my Switchback Mentor. She’s someone you’re close to but who is outside your peer group; someone non-judgmental who understands you. I never had someone like that in my life before. She helped me find the answers for myself.”Eshan, former Switchback Trainee
Who are we looking for?
We’re looking for enthusiastic individuals, brilliant at working with people and keen for the chance to be autonomous, with support. You will be able to expect the unexpected, be energetic and have a good sense of self-awareness. With a commitment to learning and furthering your own development, you will also have great attention to detail and a desire for accuracy and consistency.
To do this role effectively you need to bring both professionalism and commitment. Critically, you also need to have great personal resilience to deal with setbacks, as well as endless patience and perseverance, and a real desire to work with challenging young adults.
You will be excited about the chance to be part of a cutting-edge charity enabling some of London’s most marginalised young people to make real, lasting change in their lives.
Switchback is committed to diversity and strongly encourages applications from every part of the communities we serve, particularly people from ethnic minority backgrounds and those with lived experience of the criminal justice system. All appointments are made on merit.
So if you have at least one year’s experience of working directly with people with complex needs and are looking for a unique opportunity to work in a truly person-centred way (no tick-boxes here!), we want to hear from you.
To help you become an expert Switchback Mentor, we will invest in you. We will support you with sector-leading training and development. We will help to build your expertise as a therapeutic practitioner through comprehensive in-house training in our unique change model.
You will also receive ongoing training and development including:
- Monthly 1:1 clinical supervision
- Monthly psychologically-informed reflective practice sessions with the world-renowned Tavistock Institute
- An individualised training budget to spend on external training in different psychological methods of practice
- Structured progression pathways providing opportunities to develop management skills and technical expertise, informed by your own learning goals.
”“Switchback totally changed how I thought about myself. I’ve learned that it’s not about taking the fast route, taking the long route is more beneficial in the end. I’ve done so much more than I thought I could.”Elton, former Switchback Trainee
View from a Switchback Mentor
Here, Switchback Mentor Raph answers some questions about being a Switchback Mentor…
What’s it like being a Switchback Mentor?
Overall it’s an amazing experience although it can be challenging at times. You have lots of room to develop as a practitioner and gain vast knowledge of the justice system. There are lots of rewarding moments, like when you work with a Trainee and see them go through so many stages and hurdles but still come out the other side with great achievements.
You learn a lot on the job and there are plenty of opportunities to grow. Everyone on the team is always open to learning new things, and there is a lot of space to not just be a Switchback Mentor but to dabble in other areas – for example I got to represent Switchback on BBC News, speaking about the challenges young men face when coming out of prison during the pandemic.
What’s a typical day like for you?
No two days look the same! Normally you would go into prisons once or twice a week, meeting young men and seeing who would be good to join Switchback. Another day, you’d be meeting with the people already on your caseload and supporting them with whatever they need – from writing their CV and disclosure letter to recognising and unlearning bad habits. The following day you might be taking your Trainees on a trip or to visit an employer, or you may be supporting someone on their first day of work training.
What work had you done before?
Before I came to Switchback, I was working in schools with boys with special educational needs or behavioural problems. I always knew I wanted to support young men in any way possible. Then I saw that Switchback opened a Junior Switchback Mentor programme where I had six months of training and learning. In that time, I had close one-to-one training with my manager, lots of shadowing sessions and I received a Handbook explaining step-by-step how to be an effective Switchback Mentor.
What do you enjoy most about the role?
The team is extremely nice and supportive, and if you’re ever feeling stuck, there will always be someone there to help. But the most amazing thing is seeing Trainees achieve their goals, whether that’s mending their relationship with their family, securing housing, getting a job or even opening a bank account. Sometimes small things can mean a lot to them, and seeing Trainees happy is the biggest reward.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in the role?
At the beginning, it was hard for me to switch off after work, after hearing stories about the difficult things people were going through. Sometimes you’re finishing on a Friday evening knowing that your Trainee has nowhere to stay and you worry about him. I had to learn to take care of myself as well.
The other thing I had to learn was how to balance the complex one-to-one work with admin work. Every week, I spend a few hours tracking data about our Trainees, so Switchback can keep improving the programme. It was a bit of a challenge at first because it was not the kind of work I was used to doing – but with support I’m on top of it now!
There are a lot of prison charities out there. What makes Switchback unique?
Switchback is entirely Trainee-centred, we always want to do whatever is best for our Trainees. We have the Experts By Experience Board: a group of former Trainees who give us information about what could be done better, whether at Switchback or in the system, and we tailor our work accordingly. That’s what I love about Switchback.
Hear Switchback Mentors Maddy and Raph describe their favourite memories, biggest challenges and best things about the job. Watch our video:
”“I was totally closed off before. But speaking with my Switchback Mentor created that trust, that bond.
I can talk to her about anything, I know she’s not going to judge me. If I didn’t take that step to come to Switchback I’d probably be back inside.”Raihan, Hotel Receptionist and former Switchback Trainee
How to apply
We’re are not currently hiring new Switchback Mentors. Sign up below to express an interest and be the first to hear (we’ll only email you about Switchback job opportunities and we will not share your details with anyone else):
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”"I don’t know where I’d be without Switchback. They restored a lot of things. My faith, my trust, my mentality. You’re allowed to open up at a rate that works for you. You’re a person, not a plan.
There’s so much to look forward to now. I used to see the world in a totally different light. I used to see it in black and grey, now I see it in colours."Michael, Chef and former Switchback Trainee
Longford Prize 2019
Charity of the Year 2019, Charity Times Awards
Outstanding Organisation 2017, Criminal Justice Alliance Awards
Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Re-Integration 2016
”The transition from prison back into the community is so often when the system fails. Switchback is a focussed, inspiring resettlement charity that is a beacon of hope at a time when centrally-funded alternatives are in chaos.”Longford Prize judges’ citation, 2019