SOS Project

Junior Smart, St Giles Trust.
United Kingdom
A holistic peer-to-peer mentoring programme run by ex-offenders that helps former prisoners reintegrate back into society and prevents young people from getting involved in crime.
What solution does the innovation propose?

A peer-to-peer training scheme for ex-offenders and high-risk groups, developed by an ex-convict and incorporated into St Giles Trust's existing framework of criminal justice programmes. Through the Peer Advisor Programme, the organisation trains ex-offenders to become professional, qualified advice workers. After the training, they are placed at the heart of services for their ability to help other people with multiple vulnerability factors and provide them with tailored solutions that meet their complex needs. This two-fold approach not only contributes to cut re-offending rates, but also impacts the mentors themselves, who are trained and qualified as professional caseworkers, increasing their skills and employment prospects.


Top 10 companies to work for, The Sunday Times (2015). Best Advice and Guidance Project, Charity Awards (2014). Longford Prize (2014). Junior Smart is an Ashoka Fellow (2008).

Impact evidence

  • Between 2015 and 2017, over 500 prisoners were trained as Peer Advisors.
  • In 2015, 38% of St Giles Trust’s staff involved in the SOS Project were ex-offenders.
  • One of the programmes delivered by Peer Advisors presents a cost-benefit ratio of 1:10. For every £1 invested, £10 are saved through the reduced costs of re-offending.
How does it work?

The project offers ex-offenders and other disadvantaged people the opportunity to become professionally trained and progress into employment, whilst supporting others to move their lives forward. It provides training towards the Level 3 Advice and Guidance qualification, which includes knowledge on areas such as communication, interviewing techniques, advocacy and equal opportunities. Many of the people trained support St Giles Trust’s services through volunteering and some progress to become caseworkers. The majority of SOS employees are trained, reformed ex-offenders with first-hand experience of the issues their clients are facing. By using this mix of first-hand insights coupled with specialist training, participants provide a service that reaches some of the most disadvantaged people often not engaged in or excluded from other services. Work is delivered through small teams and in partnership with statutory agencies to ensure participants are properly linked into other services and make effective use of them. SOS caseworkers deliver the following services:

  • 'Through the Gates’. Support to young men with gang affiliations upon leaving prison, with the aim to prevent reoffending.
  • Assistance to victims of violence. Support to young people who are admitted into the major trauma unit of Royal London Hospital as a result of serious youth violence and sexual violence.
  • ‘SOS+’. A school-based, preventative programme aimed at young people at risk of gang crime.

Geographical scope

Where was initially developed
Southwark, London, United Kingdom.
Where has been implemented so far
Other areas in London, Ipswich and Essex. Peer Advisors are also trained in Leeds and Cardiff.
Last updated: 
March 2019