Social workers failing to refer children to mentoring scheme

By Sarah Cooper

| 11 September 2007

A mentoring project for looked-after children has found that too few children are being referred by social workers to the scheme.

The Looked-After Children Mentoring Project aimed to establish pilots with adults acting as mentors for children in foster care and residential homes. Youth charity Rainer has been running the government-commissioned project with The Prince's Trust and the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation since April.

Steven Corbett, national project manager at Rainer, said: "We have had a stocktake. There was no problem in mentor recruitment, there are lots of people interested in doing it, but there are issues about getting people to refer young people to mentoring."

Referrals to the projects can come from social workers, teachers, foster carers and personal advisers. But according to Corbett there are not many referrals coming from social workers. He said some professionals may be reluctant to refer children and young people to mentors because they are not sure what the role of mentors is.

Ian Johnston, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said he was surprised social workers are not referring young people to mentors. "I would have thought social workers would have wanted to extend the support that looked-after children get," he said.

Johnston believes the finding may be an indicator that social workers feel the role of mentors overlaps with the work that they do. He added: "It's something that we would like to see investigated further."

Corbett said the project now wants to promote the positive aspects of mentoring and encourage young people to refer themselves to the scheme. "It can support them in a positive way. It's very much led by the young person and it's something that they would agree to do."

The project's target is to have 600 mentoring relationships in place by March 2008. These would be delivered through 28 providers across England who have been commissioned to try out different types of mentoring.

- www.raineronline.org.uk.

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