Saturday, 16 June 2012

Mentoring young people

This week I was asked why the mentoring scheme that I have supported for some years has such a high failure rate. I think they were expecting me to say that the lack of support from the centre was the issue - perhaps hoping to use my comment as a lever to extract more funding? But to me the biggest issue isn't the lack of support but is a certain lack of common sense demonstrated by both the young people and, more annoyingly, by the adult mentors.

The student who lost both her parents contacts me on a Friday and I always try to reply the same day. If I know that I'm going to be away - for instance on holiday - I warn her in advance and I let her know when I am due back. Similarly she lets me know if she is going to be away: as indeed she was recently when she went on a study tour. This isn't rocket science but neither does it seem to be standard practice.

But where the current system really doesn't seem to be working is when there is a crisis, perceived or actual, in the young person's life. The mentor needs to give a rapid reply. This is what the young person needs and what they expect. If one of my daughters was in trouble I wouldn't dream of taking up to a week before replying to her cry for help. Yet, sadly, this seems to be a common factor in the breakdown of some pairings.

A rapid reply inplies that the mentor should monitor incoming emails on at least a daily basis. Certaintly I think monitoring as infrequently as twice a week is not going to meet the needs of the young person. I have asked before, both publically and privately, that if the youngsters needs are not being met then should the mentoring continue?

I suppose the answer is yes on the basis that any help is better than none. But to me investing a few minutes once a day to significantly improve the service is just common sense. Common sense that has very much left me in a minority within the group.

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