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Q. What is mentoring and befriending?
Mentoring and befriending are similar activities which both involve the development of voluntary relationships based on trust, confidentiality and mutual involvement – either in a one-to-one or group setting. The relationship is formed with the aim of providing practical assistance and social support. Involvement can be a very rewarding experience for both participants providing opportunities for developing new skills, raising self-confidence and exploring things from a different angle while at the same time engaging with, and putting something back into, the community. See our Information sheet: What is mentoring and befriending? for more information.
Q. What is the difference between mentoring and befriending?
The main difference between these two similar forms of activity is usually the emphasis placed on goal setting. In mentoring, although there are social elements to the relationship, the main focus is on the achievement of particular goals within a clear timeframe. In befriending, the main role of the volunteer is to offer informal social support where none exists and the achievement of goals is not as central to the relationship and may be defined only in broad or limited terms.
Q. Where do you find mentoring and befriending projects?
Projects exist in a range of settings including schools, colleges and universities in support of young people who are at risk of exclusion from society, as part of voluntary and community schemes helping people to play a full part in their communities e.g., refugees, disabled people, older people, single parents. Mentoring can also be found in offender-related settings such as prisons and young offender institutions supporting people to change their lives around and befriending plays a key part in the health and social care field supporting people with mental health problems and others who are socially isolated. You will also find mentoring in business and workplace settings where it is used to support professional and personal development. Read some of our case studies to give you more of an insight.
Q. I’m thinking of setting up a project – where do I start?
You will need to research existing provision in the area you are looking to set up a project and talk to as many similar schemes in your area as you can. Also speak to potential service users to clearly establish what the need for your project is. You will need to develop a business case with realistic costings before applying for funding and you might want to consider working in partnership with other organisations. Book onto our Setting up and managing a mentoring or befriending programme training course for more information.
Q. What support can I get in setting up a new service?
We deliver a comprehensive training programme specifically designed for mentoring and befriending practitioners, which includes courses aimed at those who are just ‘Getting started’. Our resources of information sheets, guides, toolkits and examples of good practice can support you at this crucial stage. We can put you in touch with similar schemes or networks and support you in working towards our quality standard, the Approved Provider Standard, which can help ‘health check’ your scheme to make sure it is operating safely, effectively and professionally.
Q. How many matched volunteers and clients can one full-time co-ordinator manage?
This will vary depending on the service user group the project will be working with and the level of support they require e.g., the intensity of support will be higher or lower depending on the client group. You will need to think about frequency of meetings, the level of training required for your mentors and befrienders and the ongoing support and supervision that will be required by your volunteers. Ongoing recruitment of volunteers and clients needs to be considered too.
Q. What are the benefits of achieving the Approved Provider Standard (APS)?
The Approved Provider Standard (APS) is the national benchmark to recognise safe and competent practice and is the only quality standard that is specifically designed for mentoring and befriending projects. Achieving APS helps to increase public confidence in mentoring and befriending programmes and can help you to promote your scheme to potential service users, volunteers and funders. It helps projects, of any size, to carry out a ‘health check’, evaluate their current practice and gain external recognition for operating safely, effectively and professionally. Find out more on our APS pages.
Q. How do I get in touch with projects in my areas to share good practice and experience?
Q. How do I volunteer as a mentor or befriender?
Here are three options that we suggest you can explore to find a volunteering opportunity:
- Search our Project directory for mentoring and befriending projects in your local area. Contact them to find out more about potential volunteering opportunities.
- Search the Do-it website where local volunteering opportunities are listed including mentoring and befriending ones.
- Contact your local Volunteer Centre who hold information on volunteering opportunities in their area. Search for your nearest Volunteer Centre on the Volunteer Centre Finder
Q. What is a Learning Mentor and how can I become one?
A Learning Mentor is a paid mentor, mainly employed by primary or secondary schools, to provide support in raising pupils’ attainment, improving attendance and reducing exclusions. Learning Mentors come from a wide range of backgrounds including volunteer mentoring, teaching, social services and youth work but all have experience of working with young people and with the ability to build a rapport with them. Find out more about on the Department of Education website here. Recruitment for these posts is carried out at a local level with schools and local authorities who advertise posts in the local press and through their websites. You can also contact your Local Authority and ask to be put through to their Children’s Services Department.
Q. Who makes a good mentor or befriender?
Mentors and befrienders can come from any walk of life and are all ages. Mentors and befrienders bring a wide variety of life experiences and backgrounds to the role and often, people who have worked with a mentor or befriender and experienced the benefits for themselves, go on to volunteer as a mentor or befriender themselves. Typical skills required for the role include being positive, reliable, a good listener, interested, approachable, non-judgemental and realistic.
Q. Where can I find accredited training as a mentor?
Accredited training courses change each year with each college prospectus so it is always best to contact your local college or university, depending upon the level you wish to attain. See our information sheet on getting your own training accredited. Some distance learning courses include the Learning Curve’s Professional Certificate in Mentoring.