London Borough of Barking & Dagenham


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Name of Company:London Borough of Barking & Dagenham
Programme Name:Looked After Children, Health & Education Support Team (LACHES), Volunteer Mentoring Project
Staff in London:Approx 5,000

Overview

The Looked After Children, Health & Education Support Team (LACHES) Volunteer Mentoring Project provides mentors to young people in care in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham. It responds to a need to fill the gaps between the services offered by professionals involved with a child in care (legal framework) and those who would be "child lead" (volunteers). The project supports young people with their educational, health and social inclusion needs by providing support both in and out of schools and social inclusion within the community.

The aim of the project is to increase the self esteem and confidence of young people in care and to support and guide them. The mentors aim to enhance the quality of life of their mentees by assisting them to make informed choices and by increasing their life chances. They are encouraged to: engage or re-engage with education, further education and training; to be healthy, therefore, supporting their independent living; to stay safe by being well informed and understanding risk taking; to enjoy and achieve by engaging with new experiences; to make a positive contribution and to achieve economic wellbeing through education, training and employment.

Volunteer Mentors come from all sectors of the community, from 19 year old care leavers to 63 year olds who have been volunteering for many years. They are carers, doctors, office workers, nurses, homemakers, policemen, teachers, students, railway workers, environmentalists, clergymen and retired people, all working in partnership with the local authority to improve the lives of this vulnerable and very often disadvantaged group of young people.

Management

The Project is located within LACHES, Children's Services which helps to provide a holistic support package for children in care in Barking and Dagenham. It has support throughout Care Management Teams, from Members, the Head of Service, Group Manager level, and other professionals involved with children in care.

Two paid Barking and Dagenham staff manage and support the cohort of 65 volunteer mentors. All mentors receive comprehensive training including communication and basic counselling skills, knowledge of systems for children in care, child protection, personal safety, and maintaining boundaries. All have 1:1 supervision and group support plus management staff operate an 'on call' process to back-up mentors whilst working.

Monthly and quarterly feedback is received from mentor and mentees to ensure the project is meeting needs and supporting participants. It may also identify additional needs for training or support from other professionals involved with the child. The project management continually review practices and guidelines to ensure they are up to date with current legislation and guidance on good practice.

Impact

The Project has worked with 70 children and young people in 1:1 relationships since 2005. This has lead to better engagement in mainstream education and support with flexi or vocational learning. Children in care are engaging better in education, and achieving better SATs, GCSE, A levels. The number of children in care achieving at least one A-G at GCSE has risen forty-two percent since the 2005, the number of young people achieving five A-C including English & Maths on track to reach its target of twelve percent by 2008/09, and the number of young people completing at least one year at University is now fifteen percent and rising. A total of thirty-one care leavers in all are on undergraduate degrees.

"He is there for me when I need him and is very funny"
- 15yr old boy lacking confidence, unable to express himself and with no adult role models. His Mentor, a 63 year old ex-boxer with vast experience and patience, a perfect grandfather figure. Since they were introduced, this young man's confidence and self-esteem has risen considerably.

"Thank you very much for your great help and support.....it has changed my life and me for the better, Thank you"
- A 16yr old girl who felt unwanted and unloved. She seeks constant attention and affection in sometimes inappropriate ways. Her Mentor is a 50 year old secretary who is compassionate and patient and supports this young woman to understand boundaries, deal with her feelings and make the transitions into adulthood.