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Young People: Mentoring

Volume 771: debated on Monday 25 April 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many young people they expect to benefit from the Prime Minister’s commitment to expand the mentoring programme for disengaged young people.

My Lords, we are committed to delivering a new generation of high-flying mentors from the world of work to support young people who are at risk of underachieving. The Careers & Enterprise Company will recruit volunteer mentors and launch a fund to scale up schemes that link mentors and young people. By 2020, we want 25,000 young people a year to benefit from such a mentor. We have committed £90 million to transforming careers provision over this Parliament, including £20 million for mentoring.

My Lords, the postcode lottery of careers provision means that access to the best support too often depends on where you live and which school children attend. What will the Government do to address this problem?

My noble friend is absolutely right, and to address this issue the Careers & Enterprise Company published a detailed analysis last October which showed exactly where young people need further support and where there needs to be improvement in careers and enterprise provision. Following that, the company launched a careers and enterprise fund, for which the winning bids were announced in March, and 75% of funding will go to those areas which were highlighted as most in need of improved support.

My Lords, I warmly welcome any expansion of much needed mentoring for young people. Can the Minister confirm that this will include emphasising the importance of democratic engagement? I am sure that all noble Lords will be concerned about voter registration levels among young people, especially with regard to the EU referendum, which is about their future. Will she agree to meet Bite The Ballot, which was recently championed by President Obama, to discuss how it might work with the mentors on the issue of democratic empowerment?

We certainly consider mentoring, in a whole range of ways, to be extremely important, which is why we will be launching a £12 million government fund to extend and scale up proven schemes that link mentors with young people. We will launch this scheme later in the year and announce further details. We would welcome organisations that are involved in mentoring across an entire spectrum bidding for this funding, because we believe that it is extremely important for young people to have role models in a variety of areas to help ensure that they reach their potential.

My Lords, charities such as Barnardo’s—I declare an interest as a vice-president—work with troubled teenagers and know that mentors, through support and guidance, can transform the life chances of children in care and children who have been abused. Can the Minister indicate how the new mentoring programme will complement other support for the most vulnerable, including access to emotional well-being services?

As I said, later this year we will launch a new £12 million fund, through which we will look to provide funding to help scale up already proven mentoring programmes, and I am sure that a number of those the noble Baroness mentioned will be included. We are also planning to launch a high-profile campaign to raise awareness of the impact of mentoring among not just young people, but organisations, charities and businesses. We want to ensure that 25,000 young people who are most at risk of dropping out of education or underachieving have access to a mentor.

As I said, mentoring and providing advice and support for young people is clearly a priority as we are putting £20 million into mentoring. We are trying to make sure that excellent schemes that have been proven to have a real impact on young people’s lives are able to access new funding so that young people can fulfil their potential and get the support, help and guidance from inspirational mentors that we know can make a significant difference.

I welcome all that the Government are doing on mentoring, but what are they doing to ensure that the quality is monitored? The expansion is large and rapid, which can sometimes cause serious problems with quality. How is it to be measured?

As I said, this new fund will be about scaling up proven mentoring schemes, so quality will be at the very heart of ensuring that young people get access to the kind of schemes that make the most difference for them. However, we also need to make sure that these schemes are available in areas where provision is patchiest. The analysis that I talked about earlier, identifying areas of the country where real support is needed—and needs to be improved—means that we can encourage proven schemes to expand into those areas, so that all young people have access to that kind of support.

For how long will each young person have the benefit of a mentor? What many of these young people lack is consistency over a period of time.

My noble friend is absolutely right. We want to help tailor the support that young people get, so the exact support given and the length of the mentoring contract will vary depending on a student’s needs. The support will also be provided in different ways—for example, as one-to-one sessions, group working and work experience. The time over which a young person will need support will vary, and the mentors will work with young people in a whole range of ways so that the support can be properly tailored to what can best help them.

My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the excellent report published earlier this month by your Lordships’ Select Committee on Social Mobility, ably chaired by my noble friend Lady Corston. One of its recommendations was that teenagers should be offered face-to-face careers advice, with responsibility for that taken away from schools. Given that, to protect their budgets, some schools have been promoting their own sixth-forms over other routes into employment, and have been criticised for that by the chief inspector of Ofsted, will the Minister tell noble Lords whether her department intends to act on that recommendation?

I too pay tribute to the extremely thoughtful report from the Select Committee. Of course, we have already strengthened statutory guidance to ensure that the independent careers advice provided is presented in an impartial manner and includes information about a range of education and training options. However, I agree with the noble Lord: we need to go further. That is why the Government intend to bring forward legislation to require schools to allow other education and training providers the opportunity to talk to pupils in their premises, so that young people get the range of advice they need to make the right choice for themselves in where they want to take their future careers.