Earlier this year, we held the first gathering of our six Trust funded Peer Mentoring projects for care experienced young people.
At the Trust we believe that positive relationships are vital for all of us, supporting our emotional and mental well-being. They are also key to developing our own identity and self-worth.
The power of human connection is often underestimated and I think if we are all honest, at some point in our lives we have been guilty of taking our relationships for granted, whether that be with our friends, colleagues, or family members. I have been fortunate that, throughout my life, I have had support, unconditional love, advice, and encouragement at my fingertips. Since being with the Trust I have become more and more aware of how this has shaped my life. I have always known that it helped me but I don’t think I ever appreciated to what extent. Now, I cannot begin to imagine where I would be without it.
The Trust’s investment in mentoring is recognition that not everyone has had access to consistent, supportive and positive relationships throughout their lives. We’re supporting peer mentoring as one means of increasing the opportunities for care experienced young people to have positive relationships, because young people tell us this is a big gap area.
It is centred upon providing opportunities for stable and supportive relationships for care experienced young people to help them build loving, healthy, interdependent relationships in the future.
Peer mentoring is aimed at providing one-to-one support in a relationship which is entirely voluntary on both sides, as with mentoring more generally. However, the added element is that both the mentor and the mentee will share one or more characteristic.
The gathering of the Peer Mentoring projects at the end of March provided the opportunity for representatives from each of the projects to come together to share their progress, what they have learned and the challenges they have faced during the first six months of their projects. There was also space to share ideas around other topics including the secrets to successful mentoring matches, training and development for mentors and the support available for both mentors and mentees.
While the projects are all at different stages, and they have varied experience of mentoring, they have each made good progress in the first six months, including recruiting staff, developing training materials and the recruitment of mentors and mentees.
Some organisations are new to focusing specifically on care experienced young people, which brings new opportunities to raise awareness and build understanding of care experienced young people at community level.
There have been some challenges in reaching prospective mentors with care experience who are ready to take on a mentoring role, which has sometimes meant projects adapting their recruitment methods and criteria. Feedback from the day highlighted that the space to discuss some of these challenges was particularly useful for the projects, and the Trust hopes to continue these gatherings in the future.
For me personally, it was fantastic to see the passion that all of the people working on these projects have for peer mentoring and our shared belief that it will make a profound difference to the lives of care experienced young people. Their willingness to share their learning with each other and the Trust, as well as be open to learning and trying new things, was particularly exciting and we look forward to hosting the next gathering in October.
Catriona Kelly, Programme Officer, Care Experienced Young People Programme
* Our six funded peer mentoring projects are being delivered by Barnardo’s, Move On, The Rock Trust, Up-2-Us, Ypeople and Y Sort It.