A selection of pictures showing different mentoring and befriending relationships

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Some questions and answers to the most commonly asked queries we receive about mentoring and befriending:


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. Download our free 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 ‘through the gate’ community mentoring schemes supporting people to change their lives and build a crime free life. 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 and view Our projects to give you more of an insight.

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
  • If you are interested in supporting adults with convictions then search the justmentoring hub: volunteer mentor opportunities in your area and make contact with mentoring services working within the Criminal Justice System.

Q. How do I find a mentor or befriender for myself or someone I know?

Many people can find themselves with limited, or no access, to support networks and it may be appropriate for a volunteer mentor or befriender to step in and support you/them. Our free information sheet: How to find a mentor or befriender gives a useful starting point and some suggestions for how to go about finding a suitable scheme. If you have a conviction and are looking for a mentor to support you with building a crime free life then search the justmentoring directory for mentoring services that support adults with convictions.

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. Search our Project directory to find contact details of similar schemes already in operation. 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 on to our Setting up and managing a mentoring or befriending programme training courses (Parts A and B) 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 toolkits, guides 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 effectively and professionally. We also provide Consultancy services offering specialist advice and expertise. Join the free MBF network to access our full range of support.

Q. Where can I find funding for my project?

Our free information sheet Obtaining funding for your mentoring or befriending project is a good place to start. It gives you links to a range of funding sources for grant funding, loan funding, trusts and foundations funding, local/national government and European funding as well as some top tips for when you are making a funding application.  We also include current funding alerts in our monthly member e-bulletin ‘In touch’ – access past issues and sign up.

Q. What are the benefits of achieving the Approved Provider Standard (APS)?

The Approved Provider Standard (APS) is the only quality standard that is specifically designed for mentoring and befriending projects. Achieving APS helps to increase public confidence in your project 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 recognition for operating effectively and professionally. Find out more on our APS pages.

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. How do I get our volunteer mentor training programme accredited?

Getting your training programme accredited involves using an externally recognised awarding body to assess your volunteers. There are a range of awarding bodies that offer accreditation for traning/volunteering including ASDAN, AQA, Open College Network (OCN) and NCFE. Volunteering England also produce an information sheet ‘Accreditation of Volunteering’ which includes useful information and further links.

Q. How do I get in touch with projects in my area to share good practice and experience?

Search our Project directory and locate projects based in or near your area.  Join our discussion forum and talk to projects that way.

Q. I’m looking for a mentoring qualification, where can I find accredited training courses?

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. Adult Education Services on your Council website often provide details of courses at local Community Learning Centres.

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 the job role on the National Careers Service website. 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.



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M&B APS Standard
Tel: 020 7520 2442 
Email: infomandb@ncvo.org.uk

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Tel: 020 7520 2587
Email: training@ncvo.org.uk

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