MK Dons and Ipswich Town came together on Tuesday in support of the transformational intergenerational mentoring project ‘Grandmentors’, run by the award-winning national charity, Volunteering Matters.
The project has had game-changing impacts for young care leavers, including in both Milton Keynes and Suffolk. It is managed by dedicated staff, with vital backing from local councils, and locally in Milton Keynes by Buckinghamshire Freemasons.
Inspired by the accepting and nurturing relationship between a young person and a grandparent, the programme recruits, trains and supports volunteer mentors from a diverse range of backgrounds, aged 50-plus, known as Grandmentors. They use their skills and experience to provide bespoke mentoring for young people leaving care during their transition into adulthood and independence.
Kelly Israel, Grandentors Manager in Milton Keynes, says: “I’ve seen first-hand the life-changing impact that volunteers can have on young people in Grandmentors - there are many people over 50 in both Milton Keynes and in Ipswich who have valuable skills and experience that could really benefit a young care leaver.
“No special skills are required, except patience, willingness to listen – and above all the ability to inspire change in a young person.”
Young people who leave care enter a crucial period of their lives, in which they plan and prepare for their future. During this period of transition, those leaving care face significant challenges.
Every year 10,000, 16-18 year olds leave care in the UK. They are at risk of falling into debt, as well as becoming mentally or physically ill, vulnerable and discriminated against.
-Milton Keynes resident Kai was taken away from his family at three. He lived with his grandparents but after his grandpa died things fell apart and he was homeless and ‘lots of professionals gave up on me’. He says “the fact that Honor is giving up her time free of charge is important. This is a lot more laid back and there’s integrity behind it.” He meets her weekly for a catch-up, but will also message her in between whenever a problem crops up. Kai has recently had a child, and has started a job in local education.
- Ipswich resident Cole, 21, is a care leaver who was extremely socially anxious and unable to find any life purpose and now is inspired by Darren to live a goal-oriented life. He looks up to Darren who continues to offer him invaluable practical support. Darren became a Grandmentor because he wanted to transform Cole's self-belief by providing friendship and implanting life skills. Cole is now undertaking an apprenticeship.
MK Dons SET CEO Maralyn Smith said: “MK Dons and Ipswich Town are extremely proud to be hosting young care leavers tonight, who are starting on their journey as mentees on the Grandmentors project.
“We urge anyone in the crowd tonight who is over 50, and wants to inspire young care leavers to unlock their abilities and achieve their aspirations – to contact the project staff.’
Jo Rabbitte, Head of Service, Corporate Parenting, MK Council added: "Grandmentors has greatly improved our offer of support to Care Leavers and we are already seeing results in terms of increased community engagement, alongside participation in education, training and employment.
“Grandmentors is assisting the council in discharging its Corporate Parenting role by diversifying the offer to our children in care and care leavers."
By the end of this year the project is expected to have delivered a grand total of 500 Grandmentors matches.
82% of the vulnerable young people supported by Grandmentors are in education, employment or training within six months of leaving care, compared to just 51% nationally
Volunteering Matters, the national volunteering organisation behind Grandmentors, partners with eight local authorities in England, including in Milton Keynes and Ipswich, to run Grandmentors.
Thinking of taking part?
Visit www.volunteeringmatters.org.uk/Grandmentors to get involved