Memorandum submitted by the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation

 

1. Executive summary

1.1 The Mentoring and Befriending Foundation (MBF) recommends that a national mentoring and befriending strategy for engaging with young people classed as NEET and those children and young people who are likely to become NEET is developed for implementation at the local level in both formal education settings and informal community environments.

1.2 Mentoring and befriending can be used as early interventions to support young people who are most likely to become NEET and encourage the raising of aspirations, attainment, self-esteem and confidence and build greater engagement with education, employment and training opportunities. They can also be used as a supportive framework for young people currently classed as NEET who are on the margins of society and support them to re-engage with education, employment and training.

1.3 Investment in mentoring and befriending as part of a sustainable package of support is an effective way of reducing the long-term costs that NEET young people bring and evidence suggests that mentoring and befriending is of benefit to many of the typical groupings that are NEET or tend to become so e.g., care leavers, teenage and lone parents, young offenders, disaffected students and unemployed young people.


2. The Mentoring and Befriending Foundation (MBF)

2.1 MBF provides support to organisations that use mentoring and befriending as an intervention to improve outcomes for a wide range of people including organisations that use these interventions to empower NEET young people.

2.2 As a national body and strategic partner of the Office of the Third Sector, MBF also works to influence policy and practice in the sector and across government. MBF's vision is of a society where mentoring and befriending can empower all people to reach their full potential.

2.3 MBF is committed to promoting voluntary regulation of mentoring and befriending projects through the Approved Provider Standard, the national benchmark for safe and effective practice. MBF provides support, resources and

guidance to commissioners, funders and providers around how one-to-one interventions can be a useful tool to enable everyone - including in particular those on the margins of society. For further information about MBF please visit http://www.mandbf.org.uk

3. Information in response to request for services and programmes to support those most at risk of becoming NEET and to reduce the numbers and address the needs of those who have become persistently NEET

3.1 Our written submission focuses on providing evidence and further details about a range of mentoring and befriending programmes and models that could be replicated and expanded to support the NEET group. Targeted mentoring and befriending interventions can help meet the Government's NEET challenge through proven, effective activity and through early intervention usage help to tackle the build-up of potential problems. The one-to-one individual support that is key to the development of mentoring and befriending relationships is an important element to sustain young people's participation and support young people to enter the learning pathways that lead to education and employment.

3.2 One-to-one mentoring and befriending interventions are unique examples of highly personalised forms of individual support. Both involve the development of a relationship in which one individual, who is not family or a close friend, voluntarily gives time to support and encourage another. Because of their focus on one-to-one support, mentoring and befriending projects are well placed to meet the needs of both young people at risk of becoming NEET and those already categorised as such.

3.3 Mentoring and befriending projects offer flexible, tailored packages of support to individuals and aim to empower those individuals to make informed choices, reach their potential, increase their confidence and self-esteem, raise aspirations, develop communication skills and as early intervention models are well placed to provide cost benefits over the longer-term.

4. Education settings

4.1 Young people 'at risk' of NEET are more likely to academically underachieve and be excluded from the education system. They are also more likely than their peers to be held back by a lack of numeracy and literacy, substance misuse, behavioural problems or a criminal record. Typically they are amongst the most vulnerable young people and include young people in care and
those without a stable family background. Vulnerable young people who receive mentoring support at an early stage are more likely to have better school attendance, achievement and behaviours towards education, will become more engaged with school and therefore reduce the risk of exclusion, show an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem and generally become more engaged with school - often a first step towards improvement in academic achievement.

 

4.2 In education, mentoring and befriending are being used successfully in school initiatives with many schools introducing peer mentoring schemes as a direct response to the Every Child Matters and Healthy School initiatives. MBF currently promotes the expansion of peer mentoring opportunities for children and young people within the education sector and beyond through a national contract funded by the DCSF.

 

4.3 MBF was contracted by the DfES to manage the National Peer Mentoring Pilot 2006-2008 which established a formal peer mentoring scheme in 180 secondary schools in England generating at least 3,600 matched pairs. An independent evaluation showed that 97% of participating schools reported improved pupil ability to cope with school life and 96% recorded improved pupil confidence. Findings also confirmed that key to the success of a peer mentoring programme is the level of formalisation it is given in school. A well-publicised and visible programme with the support of all staff works better than those with more casual arrangements. MBF believes it is important that schools embed schemes into the foundations of their educational and pastoral structure.

 

4.4 A survey MBF undertook with further education colleges in 2007 found that 30% of those who responded operated peer mentoring projects and of those that did not, 54% expressed an interest in setting up a programme. These numbers are likely to have increased further with the further rollout of the Aimhigher programme which includes a mentoring element and we are undertaking an audit in January 2010 which will help to identify current gaps in the provision of peer mentoring within further education.

 

4.5 As part of the DCSF's Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) strategy, mentoring and peer mentoring can play a crucial role in reducing the number of young people expected to become NEET and engage them with new learning and progression routes. MBF is managing the 14-19 Greater Manchester Peer Mentoring Challenge Programme which is funded up until September 2010 and uses peer mentoring to raise awareness and aspirations amongst young people about new learning opportunities and progression

 

routes for 14-19 year olds and beyond. MBF is training and supporting project co-ordinators to embed sustainable peer mentoring programmes within a 14-19 setting. Up to 10 peer mentors in 30 secondary scholls will be trained to provide support and encouragement to other students in order to promote further personal development and access to IAG. It aims to complement the service provided by Connexions by providing an accessible contact 'in-house' using peers closer to the age of the student. An evaluation to look at the pilot's impact will be available at the end of the programme and may show that supporting young people through peer mentoring encourages greater engagement with education, employment and training.


5. Community settings

5.1 Evidence suggests that mentoring and befriending is of benefit to many of the typical groupings that are NEET or tend to become so e.g., care leavers, teenage and lone parents, young offenders, disaffected students and unemployed young people. Unemployment has a number of major impacts and research shows that if a young man is NEET for six months then by the age of 21 he is five times more likely to have a criminal record, three times more likely to have depression or mental illness, six times less likely to have any qualifications and four times more likely to be our of work (Sinking & Swimming - understanding Britain's Unmet Needs, Young Foundation 2009). Mentoring and befriending support can make a real difference as a means of reducing re-offending and improving access to opportunities in education, training and employment. Mentors can provide positive role models that may be lacking in many lives of young people.

5.2 A study of ten 'Mentoring Plus' programmes run by Crime Concern and Breaking Barriers targeted disaffected young people and offered a one-to-one mentoring service, a programme of education and training and a series of social activities. Mentoring disaffected young people - an evaluation of Mentoring Plus was published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2004 and researchers found that evidence of impact was most marked in relation to engagement in education, training and work. This change was also most marked in projects that were well implemented.

5.3 There have been a number of studies looking at the impact of mentoring and befriending for young people at varying stages of leaving care. Two national studies included Mentoring young people leaving care: Someone for me (JRF, 2005) which revealed that mentoring helped particularly with practical advice, discussing education, employment and training and

finding work. It was highly valued for helping with relationship problems, building confidence and emotional well-being. Volunteer mentoring seen
to offer a different type of relationship from professional help and, also for some, from their troubled family relationships. The second study Sharing a laugh looked at the impact of mentoring on young people in three settings: a housing project for young homeless people, an education project for those excluded from school and a befriending scheme for young people. The general conclusion was that mentoring cannot remedy all ills facing vulnerable young people but can be a useful part of the range of interventions on offer. It was seen to be of particular value in creating a safe space in which to tell story and rehearse what to do with individual lives as well as helping to develop ways of surviving in hostile environments.

5.4 In addition, a study of a national mentoring pilot for looked after children by Rainer, Prince's trust and MBF in 2008 found that the majority of young people were predominantly positive about their experiences of being mentored. The aim of the pilot schemes was for mentees to receive help with their schoolwork, improve their school attendance, improve their social and life skills and support in participating in social networks and group activities. MBF recommends that looked after children and care leavers are given the opportunity of a mentor or befriender both before and during their transition to leaving care.

6. Mentoring and befriending projects in action

6.1 Some of the following examples demonstrate the range of mentoring and befriending models that are effective in working as an early intervention with those at risk of becoming NEET as well as supporting those who are typically classed as NEET:

6.2 The Chance UK mentoring programme uses a well structured model of mentoring involving a high degree of individual support with primary school children with behavioural difficulties or at risk of developing criminal and anti-social behaviour. 78% of the children referred are from single parent families and 32% have already faced exclusion from school. Mentoring is delivered by carefully screened and trained volunteers who are supervised and supported by a professional staff team. Mentor and mentee meet once a week for a year targeted on three areas of activity - recreational, behavioural and educational. The project shows that a positive change in behaviour can have a knock-on effect on other outcomes, including academic progress, family relationships and the ability to make friends.

6.3 Friends United Network (FUN) provides long-term, sustained and reliable adult befriending support for children from low income or single parent families in North London. Befrienders spend 3-4 hours per week with a child over a minimum of two years with many relationships lasting longer. Befriender and befriendee enjoy social activities together but it is the stability and support provided that is key.

Case study: Paul was just nine when he was referred to FUN. He was living with his grandmother and two stepbrothers and would display serious behavioural problems. He had never known his real father and his mother was often in prison. Paul was matched with Sarah and their befriending relationship has continued for more than seven years and has transformed Paul as a boy. The two go ice-skating together, swimming, visit museums and the theatre. Paul has taken up the opportunity to do work experience and his behaviour at home as changed "beyond recognition". Paul has been taking AS levels and aspires to going to Oxford University. Sarah and Paul remain close friends but meet up less regularly. Sarah is about to become a mum herself and Paul has developed his own group of friends in sixth form. Paul described the relationship with Sarah as having improved his self-confidence and giving him a different perspective on life. He said "Someone outside the family to talk to, someone to encourage and support education and other interests".

6.4 The Hub4 Arts Mentoring Initiative ran for 3 years until March 2009. It was a 1 million partnership project between Artswork, BBC Blast and The Prince's Trust. The project worked with over 5,000 NEET young people aged between 16-25 years and aimed to improve their education, training and employment opportunities, as well as enhancing their self-confidence, skills and abilities. Participants in each region learnt mentoring skills and mentored each other through the formation of creative learning hubs which provided a support network where these young people could also access professional advice and mentoring to realise their full potential. Participants developed the hub into a valuable resource for young people in the region who have an interest in the arts, giving them the opportunity to access training, work experience and engage with local arts professionals to develop learning around arts practices. The young people, who ultimately became responsible for the hub and its development, were supported during this process in attaining the Arts Award accreditation.

6.5 Breakthrough Project aims to prevent exclusion and increase motivation by supporting students displaying early signs of anti-social behaviour. The project provides sports development coaching staff who work with groups of students in a range of schools. Through sport, positive associations are built with the school. Breakthrough was initially ran in South Gloucestershire however due to its increased success Bath, North East Somerset County Council and Somerset County Council have now bought into the programme and it is now being delivered in the same format in both of these 2 counties.

6.6 Northern Learning Trust Sandwriter Mentoring Project aims to help young people who have offended, or are considered to be at risk of offending. This is done by pairing them with a mentor who will help by providing them someone to talk to and who will listen to them, help them to identify and reach their specified goal, assisting them to find alternative ways to spend their time and be a positive role model for them.         
 

7. Summary of recommendations

7.1 A national mentoring and befriending strategy for engaging with young people classed as NEET and those children and young people who are likely to become NEET should be developed for implementation at the local level in both formal education settings and informal community environments.

7.2 Expansion of a range of high quality peer mentoring, mentoring and befriending programmes in primary and secondary schools to support the identification and engagement of young people at risk of falling into the NEET category.

7.3 Investment in community-based mentoring and befriending programmes to support young people classed as NEET and those at risk of becoming NEET.

7.4 Further research commissioned into the most effective models of mentoring and befriending for young people classed as NEET both as a support model to re-engage young people and as an early intervention for those most at risk.

8. Further information

Report:
Transforming lives: examining the positive impact of mentoring and befriending, published by MBF, 2009

Case studies: MBF has a bank of case studies demonstrating the positive outcomes for individuals as a result of mentoring and befriending activity.

Projects: MBF can put Committee members in touch with mentoring and befriending projects working with the NEET group or those at risk of becoming NEET.

 

December 2009