Page last updated at 23:52 GMT, Sunday, 14 September 2008 00:52 UK

Mentoring benefits are 'inflated'

The report says there is little evidence to prove the value of mentors

The benefits of mentoring have been exaggerated and remain unproven, despite the expansion in mentor schemes, claims a think-tank report.

The Centre for Policy Studies report claims mentors can lack adequate training and supervision.

It says the government's political enthusiasm for mentoring has allowed the "rhetoric to outstrip the reality of what it can achieve".

Last week a Prince's Trust report backed mentoring as a way to cut crime.

"Mentoring in the UK is in need of a fundamental re-think," says Youth Mentoring: A Good Thing, written by Richard Meier.

Reducing crime

The report from the right-of-centre think tank challenges the assumption that mentoring is a successful way of supporting children and young adults.

It argues that expectations that mentors can improve educational achievement and help to tackle anti-social behaviour are not backed by sufficient evidence.

"The evidence base that mentoring benefits vulnerable youths is poor," concludes the report, which says there are now 3,500 schemes using mentoring.

"The government should stop make inflated claims for the efficacy of mentoring and recognise that it can only work in specific circumstances."

Poorly defined

Describing mentoring as "an off-the-shelf, poorly-defined concept", the report claims that there is a lack of consistency in the qualifications, training and support for mentors - and a lack of rigour in setting out what mentors are meant to achieve.

However, a report last week published by the Prince's Trust argued in support of one-to-one mentoring as a means to reduce youth crime and re-offending.

The report, Making the Case, said that mentoring bring positive benefits.

"For young offenders, it provides positive role models they can grow to trust and believe in; for mentors, the positive impact on young peopleís lives provides a real sense of worth, while for society at large it is one way of helping to reduce offending."

A survey from the Prince's Trust found that 65% of young offenders under the age of 25 said that having the support of a mentor would help them to stop re-offending.

A peer mentoring scheme to tackle bullying has also been launched last week, with 150 schools taking part in a pilot scheme funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

A spokeswoman for the DCSF said: "Mentoring is just one approach to working with challenging young people. Itís no easy job to turn around lives and whatís needed is a rounded approach.

"It's as a result of this rounded approach to policy making that we are addressing entrenched problems like teenage pregnancy and drug use by young people, both of which are falling."

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