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Mentoring: A valuable asset to bolster young people's self-esteem

Dr Lisa Cameron MP
March 8, 2024

Mentoring is a powerful and crucial agent for personal and professional growth. By cultivating a sense of security and belonging, mentoring allows individuals to overcome their anxieties. This is particularly impactful for young people. As mentioned in my Westminster Hall Debate, a recent report by the University of Glasgow found that only 42% of adolescents report feeling confident all or most of the time, whereas 20% of young people report feeling lonely all or most of the time. Notwithstanding, the mental health of young people can be improved. Low-cost initiatives, such as mentoring, have proven to be efficacious.

The Campaign to End Loneliness initiative, as well as organisations such as The Grandmentors Programme, the Diana Award and the Prince’s Trust, which I have had the privilege of visiting locally, have played a pivotal role in building self-esteem levels among young people. They have also successfully contributed to their overall well-being. This demonstrates the effectiveness of these support schemes in fortifying young individuals’ confidence levels and the necessity for more government-led mentoring strategies to further tackle poor mental health.

As an example, the intergenerational Grandmentors Programme has enhanced the stability and security of care experienced young people. Through mentoring, individuals are supported to be autonomous and empowered adults. This programme recruits older volunteers, who use their life experience and skills to provide emotional and practical support to young people transitioning from the care system to independent living.

As I mentioned in my Westminster Hall debate, 41% of care leavers are not in education, employment, or training (NEET). However, Grandmentors ensure that 59% of mentees are sustaining Education, Training or Employment. They also ensured that 62% were stable in terms of their well-being, which had dramatically increased from the start of their mentoring. The figures speak to the power of mentoring, reflecting the vitality of this initiative in tackling the low mental health levels surrounding young care leavers and providing them with a greater array of opportunities.

Personal accounts from young people, such as Saliou’s story, whose voice illustrates how mentoring has been invaluable in their lives. Saliou says that: “I arrived in the UK at 17 from Guinea. I’ve been part of the Grandmentors programme…and I am now 19. I’m at college full-time, building up my skills and language. I aspire to be an electrician, and I am doing some work experience in this. My volunteer mentor really listens, and we work things out together. I share things that are bothering me. My mentor has been…supportive since we have met, and I feel grateful to have met such a wonderful person.”

By cultivating a sense of security and belonging, mentoring allows individuals to overcome their anxieties Quote

There is also the Diana Award, with which I had the privilege to work in collaboration with the all-party parliamentary group for mentoring that was organised a few years ago. It offers mentoring programmes to support young people to develop their career skills and make positive changes in their communities. It celebrates not just mentoring young people but enables them to make changes and contribute to their communities, which is so valuable for their development. Young people who have taken part in the programme have shared that it allowed them to grow closer to their peers and feel comfortable sharing their opinions. One said: “My confidence and skillset has changed. I understand different skills required in the workplace more.”

The results were not just about the experiences that the mentees expected; the skills transferred to all other types of experiences. I have not been able to include all of the fantastic organisations, but I will mention some that I have been in touch with: the Kids Network, the Mentoring Lab, Volunteering Matters, She Stands, Bloomberg, The Girls’ Network, the Youth Endowment Fund, the Patchwork Foundation and Chance UK. These organisations have played significant roles in nurturing young minds across the UK, demonstrating how an increased emphasis on mentoring schemes is crucial to the success of young individuals.

I urge everyone to unite in recognising the transformative power of mentoring. We can all collectively champion the well-being of our youth and promote a culture of empowerment by supporting mentoring initiatives in our constituencies. Ultimately, this will help us to shape brighter futures for young individuals whilst promoting a more mentally healthy society for tomorrow.

This article was co-written by Zakira Ali and Bradley Powell.

Lisa

Dr Lisa Cameron is the Conservative MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow.

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