Blog by Paul Buddery

Grandmentors is a volunteer programme that matches older mentors (50+) with young people (17-24) who are leaving the care system. Through practical and emotional support, mentors try to help young people to make a successful transition to independent living. Does the programme work? Does it have a positive impact on young people’s staying and progressing in employment, education and training (EET); on their sense of autonomy – their ‘can-do’; and on their overall happiness?

The answer from a comprehensive, two year evaluation by Manchester Metropolitan University is yes.

Before and after scores show that:

‘Young people who participate in the programme see positive changes in their lives in terms of improved education, employment and training outcomes [and] their sense of autonomy’.

Over their participation in the programme, the level of EET among young people rose to over 80%. The level of EET among the wider care population in the relevant local authority areas at this point ranged from 46% to 51%. Overall happiness was measured with data from subjective happiness and relationships and networks scales.  It showed that the majority of young people made progress on one or other of these domains. Autonomy was measured with data from two validated scales; and over two thirds of participants reported an increase in one or other of these.

The findings from this independent evaluation are in line with a smaller internal evaluation in 2015, which found 82% EET at the end of the matches, and found that 58% felt more confident about meeting new people and 50% felt more confident about doing new things.

The insights of the Manchester team have enabled us to introduce improvements during the course of the research.  The process evaluation heard directly from mentors, staff and young people themselves.  Their reflections and experiences raised issues of consistency between some of the projects, which were reflected back to project co-ordinators in a special learning summit in 2019 and are now addressed through revised case management protocols. The executive summary is available for download and the full report availbale on request. View the summary.

We have also benefited from the work of Nottingham Trent University, which undertook a case study of Grandmentors in 2019 as one of the programmes supported by the Nesta / DDCMS Second Half Fund.  Their qualitative study found high levels of shared understanding between staff and mentors about the importance of developing local information and advocacy networks; and this has led to accelerating the development of capacity-building mentor roles – Great Grandmentors.

We continue to be a programme committed to improvement. We invite independent challenge, and listen to what matters to young people themselves.  We are currently running a series of co-production sessions with care leavers to ensure that the next phase of our impact and evaluation work – the introduction of a new CRM across Volunteering Matters in 2020 – meets their needs and aspirations.