Bendrigg Alternative Scheme Relaunch

Last but not least… our Bendrigg Alternative scheme relaunch marks the final project to resume after the coronavirus pandemic.

We are delighted to be relaunching our Bendrigg Alternative (BA) volunteer scheme this month (June 2022) after it being on hold for more than two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is a major milestone for the charity as it marks the final project at Bendrigg to resume since we were forced to close in March 2020.

You may or may not be aware that Bendrigg runs a transformative volunteering scheme, where ex-offenders or those at risk of offending, have the opportunity to work alongside our team to support our visiting groups.

Since the scheme’s inception in 1991 many people have benefited from such a positive and often powerful experience. The scheme’s aim is to change the way BA volunteers think of themselves and how they relate to others, helping to reduce the chance of re-offending and give them a greater chance of rehabilitation.

“The Bendrigg Alternative scheme allows people like me to show who we can be. It gives us the opportunity to repay the faith shown in us, that we can make amends for our mistakes and channel those efforts into something amazing.”

– former BA volunteer

Watch our short video below which tells you all about this amazing scheme

Which Bendrigg groups have a BA Volunteer?

Individuals from open prisons are carefully selected, vetted by the offender management unit within the prison and interviewed by the charity. Once a prospective volunteer has successfully completed this process, Bendrigg client groups are contacted directly and can agree, or not, to have a BA volunteer placed with their group. As a result of the scheme’s success over the years, over 90% of Bendrigg’s visitors are keen to accept a BA volunteer.

‘BA’s’ can either be on a probation programme, serving a custodial sentence or working towards education and/or employment. Prior to the pandemic, the scheme had been running since 1991 – welcoming approximately 30 volunteers annually.

“It was an absolute pleasure to coordinate this unique scheme for the best part of 30 years. For me, there was no more meaningful job. I enjoyed sharing each person’s personal BA journey, from the nervous starts on day one to seeing them grow in confidence throughout the week; but my most privileged, and often humbling, moments were hearing what their powerful experience meant to them. This scheme is incredibly special.” – Lynne, former BA Co-ordinator

The feedback we receive from group leaders is also extremely positive. One client said,

“As a group leader, I would definitely recommend this volunteer to work with other groups and would not hesitate to have them work with our school again.”


Feedback from the BA’s

Scott volunteered on several occasions during 2019/20 and says his experience of the scheme directly helped him to get into work again upon his release.

Bendrigg not only presented me with the opportunity to work with professional staff and teachers, but also to work with disabled people of all ages. The days are jampacked with fun, laughter and adventure. It was an amazing opportunity to rebuild trust in the community and is an experience that will stay with me forever. Since leaving prison, my life in the community has been strengthened due to my experiences at Bendrigg. Although finding employment can be difficult when released from prison, through my volunteering at Bendrigg, I could demonstrate the levels of trust that had been awarded to me, even in difficult circumstances. I have been able to secure a job where I work alongside the Police, NHS and secondary mental health care services. I was delighted to get the job – and in my eyes, it was down to my experience at Bendrigg Trust.”

– Scott, former BA volunteer

Climbing Wall, Paraclimbing

The Impact of the BA Scheme

We frequently hear how much the BA’s experience has meant to them and how significantly it increases their confidence and self-worth. There is a clear need for the resettlement of offenders and this scheme is proud to do just that. Placement reports are written and provide feedback, which can be used as a testimonial or as favourable evidence for a parole board or potential employment in the future.

We also take the time to “debrief” with the BA’s at the end of their placement where the feedback really speaks for itself about just what a huge impact the scheme makes for each and every volunteer.

“It is hard to contain the emotion involved when talking about Bendrigg Lodge. ‘Giving back to society’ is a cliché that is over-used at the best of times, only at Bendrigg is it real.”

“By going to Bendrigg, I gained confidence in my ability to be socially interactive again. It allowed me to be tested but tested in a positive way by being of assistance to those who need it most.”

“The Bendrigg experience allows us, as offenders to remove the institutionalised feelings we have, where we are rewarded with trust, kindness and honesty. It helped me personally accept who I was and that I have a worth. This has held no bounds upon release as I am now finding success in work and most importantly with my family.”

“This here at Bendrigg is so different from where I live and seeing the different life-styles of the teenagers… it puts life into context. I was thinking… I think everyone should volunteer here for a week because you learn such a lot and you can give something back. I would love to do it again; I phoned to tell my Mum about it”

A note from Stephen, the schemes new co-ordinator

“In total Bendrigg Trust has welcomed over 700 BA volunteer placements since the scheme began back in 1991. It is amazing to think that so many people’s lives have been touched as a result of the scheme and it’s not just a one-way street, Bendrigg and the visiting groups hugely benefit from the support and care given by each of the BA volunteers during their time here. Often BA volunteers are impacted so much by the scheme, that after their release, they go on to fundraise for the charity or come back as a volunteer, which is a testament to just how powerful this scheme is.”

Karl is a former BA volunteer, since his release he has returned to Bendrigg and has taken on fundraising challenges such as the Great North Run, sponsored walks and bike rides raising well over £2000 to date to support the work of the Trust.

Find out more about the Bendrigg Alternative volunteer scheme here

Please contact us if you have any questions about the scheme or if you would like to support the scheme through a donation.