Circle Insights

Impact Mentoring – improving outcomes for vulnerable young people and families

Miles Reucroft

One thing that has come under the spotlight in the UK during the Covid pandemic has been ensuring fair access to education for all children. The school environment is often a hugely positive one for many children, offering structure as well as education and, in some cases, meals.

Impact Mentoring was founded by Wayne Cockram to mentor and support children who were struggling with their education and circumstances, inside and outside of schools. “By providing one-to-one mentoring, which so many children need, it develops a trusting, supportive relationship and helps to raise aspirations. Once a young person knows what they want to be, they better understand the importance of education and see school as an important part of their journey, ultimately improving their outcomes,” he explains.

“School is such an important welfare support system for kids. Impact Mentoring is largely funded by the schools, to help us go in and work their students, but when the school holidays come around, that funding stops. To address this gap, we set up the charitable arm of Impact Mentoring, Ignite Life, enabling us to further help kids who simply become isolated during the holidays. We realised that we needed to stop this from happening as a lot of good work was being undone during the school holidays.”

The charity has covered some impressive ground, delivering tangible benefits to young people who needed them most. “We realised that three hours of mentoring wasn’t enough for some of these kids, they needed specialist support,” explains Wayne. “Trauma in early life is a key factor in why some children find learning almost impossible. Specialist therapeutic help such as counselling can repair these issues, but often the wait can be 18 months or more. Going private isn’t an option to most families either, as the costs can be out of reach.”

Ignite Life has provided counselling sessions for young people that are free to schools, parents and the local authority, with an eight-day turnaround from referral, giving these young people the help they need, when they need it.

With the onset of Covid and the subsequent lockdowns and closures of schools, Wayne and his team identified another area of need. “The food vouchers are a great idea in theory, if you can get to the supermarket, do your shopping and get it all home,” he says. “My colleague Tom Gould decided that he would reach out to the some of families around us to see if they needed help with getting food. A lot of families have, for example, children with disabilities, and it makes getting to the shops, doing your shopping and then getting home incredibly difficult under normal circumstances.

“So, Tom started helping out with a few families. We thought, initially, that we might have 20-25 families to support in this way, but we now have over 150. We’re helping to feed over 500 people in our community each week.”

Another challenge posed to these families, and particularly the children, is accessing education during Covid. Many do not have access to the internet, so continuing their education away from the school environment is nigh on impossible.

“We’ve set up an environment here at Impact Mentoring where these kids can come and use our laptops and access the internet,” explains Wayne. “We always have a team of our mentors onsite to help them. This is helpful in many ways; it enables them to continue their educational journey, it gets them out of the house and into a safe space and we can offer them help with their homework and school tasks. Many come from families where such access and support are impossible. We’ve set up a really vibrant, aspirational environment for them here, somewhere where they actively want to come and spend time.”

Impact Mentoring also assists some of the children by giving them laptops that they can take home with them. “This enables us to deliver mobile sessions to some of the children, particularly those who can’t come to our site to use them,” adds Wayne. “This helps to increase the capacity of our services and help more children.”

You can find our more about Impact Mentoring and the important work it does here. And learn more about Ignite Life here. CACI is proud to be supporting Impact Mentoring by donating laptops to the centre.

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Miles Reucroft