When I left prison I hit rock bottom. I didn’t have stable accommodation – I was sofa surfing with friends and relatives, and I was struggling with my mental health.

I also struggled to find work. Months passed and I applied for maybe 100 jobs. Including my time spent in prison I had been out of work for a few years. I had a degree in accountancy which I thought would mean finding employment would be fairly straightforward but having to disclose my criminal record proved a serious barrier.

After seeking advice and information I realised that I would need to tell employers about my criminal record for some time, which made me think about the longer-term. I started to think about how I was going to spend this time and this led me to consider volunteering. I thought that volunteering could help me avoid more gaps on my CV and fill in some of the time until I could stop declaring my criminal record to employers. I also hoped that volunteering might lead to paid employment.

When I was seeking advice and information about declaring my criminal record I came across Nacro. I read up about their work and decided to see if they had any job or volunteering opportunities. This led me to volunteering with Nacro’s Finance Team.

I still needed to access some support services, including mental health services, and luckily Nacro was flexible with working arrangements so I could continue to attend appointments. Volunteering gave me structure and a routine. I started to sleep better and eat more healthily.

I volunteered for three months at Nacro and then, after encouragement from my line manager, I successfully applied for a paid role in credit control. The role wasn’t quite what I wanted in the longer-term but my line manager helped me to see it as a good stepping stone. After 12 months, I applied for and was offered a role which was in-line with my ambitions for the future.

Volunteering with Nacro meant that I could rebuild my confidence and skills. It also gave me balance, routine, purpose and hope. Volunteering with Nacro helped me to build a future for myself.