Young in care lacking mentor support

Children’s charity Barnardo’s has claimed that too many young people in care are missing out on the support from independent mentors.

The 1989 Children's Act ensures that councils appoint volunteers to ‘visit, befriend and advise’ children in care if it is in their best interests. However, research carried out by the charity has shown that only three per cent of looked-after children were matched with a mentor.

Furthermore, the research discovered that 1,000 children were on a waiting list for a mentor and two-thirds of local authorities had waiting lists, with eight local authorities saying that they did not have an independent mentor service.

Barnardo's is urging councils to sign up to a new set of quality standards for independent mentors, which includes: ensuring children in care understand their right to a mentor; putting children's needs first with regular monitoring; safe and transparent recruitment processes for volunteers who should commit to at least a year of regular visits; thorough training and support for volunteers; adequate resourcing; and a clear, simple and effective complaints procedure.

Javed Khan, Barnardo’s chief executive, said: “Every single child needs an adult they can trust, who will be there for them and stay by their side no matter what life throws their way. I urge Theresa May to ensure mentors are in place for young people who are at risk of dropping out of education, training or employment. Children in care already have a right to a mentor, but sadly our research shows they aren’t getting the support they need.

“A key aim of the government’s new strategy for care leavers is to support them into adult life. Providing enough mentors and signing up to the new, quality standards for independent visitors will help it achieve this.”

Cllr Roy Perry, chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: “Children have a wide range of needs, so councils need a large pool of potential volunteers to make sure that children are matched with the most appropriate person. This report is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of this role, and we would welcome a nationally coordinated campaign to build on this awareness and recruit more people who could provide additional support and friendship to a child or young person.”