Laura has come on a long journey since 2019, training as a Peer Advisor, working as a Caseworker helping young people caught up in serious violence and now becoming an Acting Team Manager.  A few years back, she didn’t think any of this would be possible.

Laura’s story

This story is part of the Peer Power series – a photographic collaboration between professional photographer Jeff Hubbard and Peer Advisors.  Earlier this year (2022) they worked together to portray their stories in photographic and written form.  Each one is unique but all highlight the true value of harnessing people’s lived experience of adversity to become a force for good.

My journey with St Giles Trust started in 2019 when I was in custody at HMP Drake Hall, my cliché way of thinking was ‘let’s try and get the most out of this really awful situation’ so I aimed at getting as much education and positive experiences I could. I applied for a course called ‘Information, Advice and Guidance’ and a lady from St Giles came and saw me, she made me feel like a person, rather than a prison number. She didn’t judge or look down at me. I was asked if I wanted to partake in a event which she was organising where school children came into the prison to look at what prison was like, to talk to residents and to our families on the impacts prison has on them.

I then moved onto open prison and my journey began to reintegrate back into society. Weeks prior to leaving prison the trainer assessor at St Giles within HMP Drake Hall told me about a job opportunity as a Caseworker embedded within an A&E department, a position I wouldn’t of normally considered due to my criminal record.

I filled in my application form, was interviewed and was offered the job. I started in September 2020 as an A&E Caseworker. I carried on with the ethos of pushing and striving for my best and pursuing every opportunity.  When the team started a new project working with young females involved in or at risk of exploitation – a project extremely close to my heart due to my lived experience – I successfully applied to work as a Senior Caseworker on it.

As the team expanded, my manager got a new role and I was asked if I wanted to take on the position of Acting Team Manager.  I jumped at the chance. I worked with the team to establish the project and expand my knowledge. Six months later was successful in gaining the position permanently.

I work with females who are in the position I was in all those years ago.  If I had had a St Giles Caseworker I may not of ended up in custody myself, with a record which will stay with me forever. I can talk to the young people with true lived experience and can upskill professionals.

I am truly grateful for my second chance in life, turning my past into a future.

Laura North


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