JUST three per cent of children in care have the support of an independent mentor to which they are legally entitled, new data suggests.
Independent mentors offer support and advice to children, remaining constant in their lives even when their placements or social workers change. Yet 97 per cent of children are missing out on that support, figures obtained by the charity Barnardo’s, and the National Independent Visitor Project, through Freedom of Information requests, suggest.
The data obtained from 149 local authorities reveals that two out of three local authorities have a waiting list for children needing a mentor. Only 2200 children in care — 3.2 per cent of the total population of children in care — have been successfully matched with mentors.
The position of mentor — formally called an independent visitor — was introduced in the Children’s Act 1989, but it has received little publicity, and most children are not offered access to an adult to advise and mentor them.
Yet the data shows that, among those who are matched with a mentor, more than 40 per cent of relationships have lasted more than two years, many have lasted more than five, and some as long as ten — maintaining contact even when the child had left the care system when they turned 18.
Barnardo’s wants the Government to force local authorities to sign up to a set of quality standards that would ensure that all children understood that that they had the right to a mentor; that mentors were recruited and trained; and that the matches with young people were regularly monitored to ensure that they continue to work.
The chief executive of Barnado’s, Javed Khan, said: “Every single child needs an adult they can trust, who will be there for them and stay by their side no matter what life throws their way.”
In particular, the Government should ensure that mentors were in place for young people who were at risk of dropping out of education, training, or employment, he said.