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Mentoring to prevent gang and youth violence


28 Jan 2015

Mentoring is widely used as an intervention with young people. Often these schemes aim to provide a child or young person with the opportunity to receive guidance and support over an extended period of time from an adult or more experienced peer.

Many of the priority Ending Gang and Youth Violence areas are interested in the potential of mentoring as a way to help prevent, divert, and provide ways out for young people engaged in or at risk of involvement in gangs and youth violence. These young people often lack a consistent positive role model or ‘natural mentor’ in their lives who they can turn to for emotional and practical support; formal mentoring programmes can provide access to this.

At present, the evidence on the effectiveness of youth mentoring is mixed. If delivered in the right way to the right young people, mentoring can have positive effects on outcomes relevant to youth crime and violence, such as delinquency and aggression. However, other evidence suggests mentoring can sometimes have insignificant impacts, and that short-lived, prematurely terminated mentoring relationships can be harmful to certain high-risk groups of young people. As a result, it is important that commissioners choose the right mentoring scheme for their target population, and that the delivery and impacts of commissioned mentoring services are carefully monitored.

Our ‘Advice for those Commissioning Mentoring Programmes’, produced in collaboration with the Home Office, provides practical, evidence-based guidance on the sorts of things commissioners and practitioners might need to consider to maximise the positive impact of any local mentoring provision, and minimise the likelihood of ineffective or unintentionally harmful practice. It includes a two-page ‘pull-out’ checklist which can be used to aid implementation, and covers things to ‘be confident’ and ‘be wary’ about when choosing, commissioning, and evaluating a mentoring service.

About the author

Stephanie Waddell

Steph is assistant director for impact and knowledge mobilisation at EIF.