Glasgow mentoring scheme urges ‘do not cut jobs’ as 700 sign petition

MORE THAN 700 people have signed a petition against cuts to a Glasgow mentoring service in the first 24 hours since its launch.

MCR Pathways supports around 2000 children and young people in the city, many of whom are care-experienced or vulnerable.

Glasgow City Council announced recently it was considering plans to cut around 30 Pathways co-ordinator roles from city schools.

A council spokesperson said a review was underway following the council budget last month but added that “several options are being explored and at this time no decision has been taken to stop the programme.”

Billie, right, with Mandy Choi of MCR Pathways (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

The petition urges the council not to cut the co-ordinators’ roles as young people will be disadvantaged and adds: “Removing the support in each school will have a devastating impact on their education outcomes, job choices and life chances. And that’s not just for a budget period, it is for a lifetime. The City will eventually pick up all manner of social costs for this catastrophe.

“We hope that the voice of the young people will be heard and that corporate parent responsibilities will drive the final decisions.”

Former mentee Billie Mason was shocked to learn the charity’s co-ordinators could be axed from schools in the city as part of cost-saving measures.

“I was actually on placement at my old high school, where I received support from the programme, when I heard the news,” she says.

“There were some pupils going round with a petition, asking people to sign up to protest against any cuts and it just broke my heart.

“Kids that are already at a loss, already on the back foot, are facing having this support taken away from them, and they felt so strongly about it they were trying everything they could to rally support.”

Billie adds: “A few years ago, that was me in that position. So I had a wee cry, then I sat down and wrote a letter to the First Minister and the Education Secretary.”

In the heartfelt letter, Billie says the programme was a “beacon of hope” during some of the darkest times in her life.

“I am certain I would not be the woman I am today without it,” she writes.

Billie lived in care from the age of 11 until she turned 18.

“Both my parents were alcoholics, so it was not an easy road for me,” she explains, simply. “It’s a weird thing, but you go from having been neglected, and not loved, to being in foster care and suddenly having someone there to look out for you. It’s a big change, accepting that this is how you should be treated.

“At school, sometimes I just didn’t think I would get through it. I was going to leave at 16 and join the Navy. Then, my school’s MCR Pathways co-ordinator Vicky suggested the programme would be good for me.”

The 22-year-old, who lives on the Southside of the city, adds: “It changed everything. Now, I had this champion in my corner. Even just being there for me when I was having a rough day, made all the difference. Vicky was amazing, and suddenly I was doing well at school, and I did well in my exams.”

Billie went on to study sport and physical activity at Strathclyde University, and she is about to begin a Masters degree in social work.

“It’s like things have gone full circle,” she says. “I love helping people so I want to go down that route.

“I know without MCR Pathways, I would not be here. And the co-ordinators are so vital to the operation, how can it run without them? I really hope the cuts will not go ahead.”

Caitlin Beaton missed a lot of school when she was a young teenager, because she was going through difficult times at home.

“Being part of the MCR Pathways programme gave me a reason to come into school,” she says. “The co-ordinator is the person who checks in with you, makes sure you turn up to meetings with your mentor and looks out for you.

“That support was vital for me. Without my co-ordinator I’d just have given up.”

Caitlin, 24, who lives in North Glasgow, studied social policy and education at university, and is now a youth worker with Diabetes Scotland, a charity she has volunteered with since she was 16. She has also recently become an MCR Pathways mentor herself.

Caitlin with Mandy Choi of MCR Pathways (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

“I know how much it means to have that one, supportive adult in your life, standing up for you,” she says.

 “I feel so grateful to the people who changed my life by fighting my corner, and I just want to be that person for someone else.”

To sign the MCR Pathways petition, visit the charity’s website.

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