The Evidence

During the past fifty years, care professions and organisations have become responsive to the importance of learning from experience and research. PROMISEworks subscribes to the view that best practice in helping vulnerable children and young people should be supported by a strong evidence base. Research into PROMISE mentoring during the last fifteen years has provided this. 

The following is an example and an extract from recent research carried out by Rudi Dallos, Professor of Clinical Psychology, and Dr Hassina Carter, both of University of Plymouth. The full paper is due to be published later in 2017.

This recent work echoes the conclusions of a similar study completed by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation in 2009.  The conclusion that emerged from that study is also presented below.   Further research and evaluation studies are available on request.

The development of trust and attachment among young people
Prof Rudi Dallos and Dr Hassina

‘It takes the stone from my heart’    (Mandy, aged 15)

The PROMISE mentoring project has been running in Somerset since 1999 and has been delivering support for a highly disadvantaged group of young people. This is through a team of volunteers who meet with them on a roughly weekly basis in a flexible way to offer support, companionship, guidance on average for a period of 3 – 5 years. A study was commissioned in 2014 to conduct an evaluation of the service. The aims of the study were guided by a previous study which found that the young people stated that the development of trust through a continuing supportive relationship with the mentors was a central benefit of the scheme.  

Research Design
The research explored their experiences, the development of the mentoring relationship, and changes in their well- being. Here, two interviews and a range of psychological measures were employed. Further joint interviews were conducted with young people and their mentors to explore the nature of the interaction between them.

The Young People
The young people had experienced a wide range of problems including very difficult family environments; parents’ mental illness, domestic violence, physical abuse and neglect, removal from their family and/or parental alcoholism.  They indicated high attachment insecurity and variety of problems including anxiety, depression, self – harm, low self-esteem and use of tobacco and/or drugs.

Findings – Experience of Mentoring
All of the young people expressed positive views of mentoring as helpful.  They reported that they regarded mentoring as having helped them with emotional problems, coping with family conflicts, managing school or college, providing practical support and raising their self–esteem. They described that that they perceived their mentors in positive terms and had grown to trust them, and felt their mentors liked them and were warm, positive and caring towards them.  These feelings increased during the one year period of the study with a development of trust and a consolidation of the positive aspects of mentoring.  All of the young people said they would recommend mentoring to other young people in a similar position to their own.  The young people also stated that their mentor had fostered positive relationships with their parents or carers which was also beneficial for them.

The young people described that  benefits of mentoring in terms of engaging in shared activities with the mentor, having fun,  shifting their mood, being able to talk about problems, practical help and an over-arching sense that they could rely on their mentor to assist them if they needed help or support. It was also clear for these young people that ‘actions spoke louder than words’ and that the development of trust was central. The joint interviews with their mentors supported these findings and also revealed that the mentors were highly skilled in facilitating the young people’s awareness and expression of their needs, processing of their feelings, and reflective abilities. This promoted constructive everyday life problem–solving skills in the young people and positive strategies for seeking support when facing future challenges.

Findings – Psychological Changes
An audit of the young people indicated that a range of problems had decreased including anxiety, decompression, educational problems, offending behaviours and family and other relational conflicts. A significant proportion showed fewer intrusions of previous trauma.  The young people described feeling more confident, happier and becoming less socially withdrawn. On attachment measures there were indications of a change from initially highly complex and insecure attachment orientations towards and greater sense of self–reliance and confidence. However, there was an indication that though they felt a secure and trusting relationship with their mentors this had not fully generalised to the world in general, but that this greater sense of self–reliance was a step towards feeling fully secure. All the young people indicated that they wished for continuing contact with their mentors even after the formal end of the mentoring relationship. This seems extremely important in consolidating the steps towards trust and security that they had been able to make.

Conclusions and Recommendations
Given that this group of young people had severe problems and challenges in their lives, the benefits of mentoring were impressive and clearly indicated a need for the PROMISE scheme and the development of similar schemes in the UK.

Esmee Fairbairn Foundation – 2009

In their conclusion, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation reported:

“PROMISE mentors offered young people in Somerset a service that no other agency was able to provide, giving them time, attention and care uniquely tailored to their specific needs. Young people believed themselves to have benefitted from having a mentor.  They felt that the mentor was the only person they could depend upon completely, and valued this as a relationship of trust.”

“The mentoring relationship proved to be a dynamic relationship.  It changed young people as they learned new ways to deal with challenges and relationships.”