MCR Pathways, a mentoring and support programme for young people in or around the edges of the care system, has received recognition in the ‘Best Covid Response in Charities or Not for Profits’ category at the Covid Response Awards 2021.
The programme matches young people with volunteer mentors and currently supports over 3,000 young people weekly through individual 1:1 support and mentoring. The Charity has been recognised for its rapid response to the challenges caused by the pandemic, as well as the creative steps taken to adapt the programme and importantly for listening to the needs of its young people.
When Covid began causing school closures in Spring 2020, weekly MCR mentoring meetings, which normally take place in school, could no longer be accommodated and alternatives had to be quickly designed for pupils to receive continued vital support.
A suite of virtual mentoring options were rapidly introduced and became a lifeline for both mentors and mentees to keep in touch. By summer 2020, 2,000 young people were participating and engaging with school staff and mentors through video, calls and chat messaging. In fact, as the situation continued, a total of 20,636 sessions took place during the 18 weeks of school closures in the lockdowns in March and the following Christmas. This provided critical contact and support for the most vulnerable young people at a time when they needed it the most.
As young people were encouraged to continue their studies at home throughout lockdown, some did not have access to laptops, internet or the space at home to maintain their learning. This and many other issues were highlighted in MCR’s July 2020 Lockdown Report, where over 1,000 young people were asked a variety of questions about their experiences of lockdown and the difficulties they face.
“I have lost all social interaction abilities, I feel it would be really tough speaking to people again. Feeling more angry than usual because I am normally quite calm when I’m at school but worried about being angry and rude.”
Young person, St Machar Academy, Aberdeen
To try and make this transition into home learning smoother, MCR provided 300 young people with laptops and internet access in May 2020. This was made possible thanks to support from The Scottish Government and other partner organisations.
“That laptop helped me a lot during lockdown because I was able to get in contact with my mentor more often… The last year was difficult, but speaking to my mentor helped a lot because I was able to get help on how to deal with situations that I was struggling with.”
Young person, St Roch’s Secondary, Glasgow
In addition to supporting young people and their mentors, MCR had to adapt the sign up process for bringing mentors on board too. Only 4 weeks after March’s lockdown, we launched our online information session, previously part of an in-person induction process, and were carrying out volunteer interviews and training virtually to continue to progress new mentors.
Commenting on MCR’s response to the pandemic, Founder Iain MacRitchie says: “I couldn’t be more proud of the team, our inspiring mentor community and of course our young people as we receive this fantastic recognition from the Covid Response Awards. The way in which both mentors and young people adapted over this period, particularly with virtual mentoring, was incredible. It was also tremendously heart-warming to see so many relationships grow in even through the toughest of times.”
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