Posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2001
Mentoring Plus is an award winning, community based, mentoring and education project for young offenders and young people excluded from school. Mentoring Plus (M+) is a part of Crime Concern, the national crime prevention organisation. There are now 14 M+ projects throughout the country although the majority are centered around the London area.
The Dalston Youth Project (DYP), upon which Mentoring Plus is based, started in the London Borough of Hackney in 1994 by Crime Concern and other local agencies in Hackney. Mentoring Plus New Deal, the project managed by me, was formed in August 1998.
When the concept of the New Deal was first introduced by Blair’s Government one of the recommendations was for there to be a Mentoring component. The contract for the New Deal in Hackney and City district was put out to tender and was won by Reed in Partnership. Having, the much heralded, DYP on their ‘doorstep ’in nearby Clapton we were invited to put forward a bid. This bid was successful and M+ New Deal was born. We have now been operating since August 1998 and I have been here since February 1999.
We are slightly different to the other M+ projects in a number of areas. Whereas all the others work alongside young people between the ages of 11-18 we work with 18-24 year olds. Where education plays a principal part in the programmes of other M+ projects, with us it is about helping to break down barriers to employment and shaping future careers. The theory is that we will help young people to find a job. Although this is one of the many long-term aims of the project I believe the primary focus is twofold. We can help young people to become job ready, addressing all the barriers they may have whilst helping them acquire the necessary skills and strategies to do this. Secondly, I always tell people we are looking to find New Deal candidates careers (as opposed to jobs per se). All of this is done by matching young people with (volunteer) Mentors. Both parties will meet roughly once a week and the relationship lasts for 6 months.
Although theses Mentors are volunteers they are given extensive training. There is also the option for Mentors to undertake an accredited training programme, from which they can acquire a Certificate in Mentoring Practice. We are currently setting up a Basic Skills 9281 (City and Guilds) course for those Mentors who have gained the certificate.
Despite all of the above it is always important to remember just how vulnerable Mentors are. Many of the meetings can, by their very nature, take place in a number of settings, although all early meetings all take place on our premises, so I am fully aware of my need to offer and provide continued support. This is done by weekly phone calls, Newsletters and other correspondence and regular meetings.
Our Mentors come from a range of backgrounds. We have University professors, a Mentor with an O.B.E ranging to Mentors who are retired to those who are currently out of work themselves. Such is the beauty of Mentoring is that everyone has a great contribution to offer, and not all are suited to particular people. We have recently begun to attract a number of Mentors who see their professional future in Mentoring or related fields such as youth work or community work. I believe that this is in no small way due to the qualifications we are now able to offer. With CYWU’s high profile recruitment drives in London, organisations like ours have recently linked up with the union. I was actually a member of the CYWU since my days in Camden, however Regional Organiser Terry Brandon informed me of the unique membership scheme for volunteers and of his work within Crimeconcern, YOT schemes and young offenders institutes. I felt it would be a great idea for Mentors to be a part of the union and share in all of its benefits. Similarly, for those who see youth or mentoring type work as there future there would be further support available and the means to access another network of information. As a gesture to our Mentors we offer free union membership to all our volunteers, picking up the Ł5 cost ourselves. M+ see this as an opportunity to demonstrate to the volunteers that we value their work, but also realise that they may need the professional advice and support CYWU membership can provide. Many volunteers will progress into paid employment along similar work, so it is good to introduce the team to the union that will represent their interests through out their career at an early stage. We do have a new cycle of training commencing at the beginning of September and ‘free’ union membership of the CYWU will be an incentive offered to all new and potential Mentors.
If you require any further information on this article on any other aspect of M+ New Deal I can be contacted at [email protected] newdeal.fsnet.co.uk We have recently produced a 15-minute promotional video about the project if you would like to acquire one of these they are available for Ł4 each.