MCR Pathways to provide 300 young people with vital internet access
Mentoring charity MCR Pathways is helping to provide a digital lifeline to the country’s most disadvantaged young people living in homes without computers and internet access. It is feared these young people are being left behind adding to a growing crisis in the attainment gap. MCR will especially focus on school leavers to support them individually through this unprecedented period of uncertainty and anxiety.
Since lockdown in the UK, the award-winning mentoring charity has connected over 1,300 young people with their staff and mentors via video calls, live chat and emails.
As one young person Chloe said of her mentor,
“You need someone to remind you that you can do it, that you’re going somewhere and that the only thing that will get you there is not giving up. That’s what a mentor does. Being isolated in lockdown it’s even more important to know that the work you’re doing is for something, that someone believes in your future and just that someone actually cares.”
Now, helped with funding from the Scottish Government and JP Morgan, MCR will provide internet access and computers for up to 300 young people who live in households without access to the vital support network of the school and their mentors. Working in partnership with Councils and schools, MCR will extend its comprehensive virtual mentoring programme further across the country.
Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Aileen Campbell said:
“MCR Pathways provides crucial support for children and young people across Scotland so it’s fitting that we are able to provide this funding to allow them to continue to provide this support digitally during the current pandemic.
“We need to continue to support all of our children’s health and wellbeing, but even more so disadvantaged children, who often rely on school life for a safe, nurturing and supportive environment. This additional funding will enable more children and young people and their families to maintain the vital mentoring relationships that have been developed through the programme.
Commenting, Iain MacRitchie, Founder of MCR Pathways said:
“Since the start of the lockdown our team has worked tirelessly to maintain the crucial relationships between volunteer mentors and our young people. Sadly, lockdown has highlighted deep rooted inequalities with some young people being unable to access the internet and do any school work from home. With schools to remain closed until after the summer, we needed to act now to prevent young people from feeling isolated and disconnected.
“We are delighted to have secured funding from the Scottish Government and JP Morgan to enable us to provide internet access and equipment for at least 300 young people. The strong relationships between our school staff and young people have enabled us to quickly identify those most in need, and to reconnect them with their mentors.
This now marks the longest time young people have been absent from school and we have yet to quantify the impact on all sections of society. One to one support and the dedication of our committed teachers is desperately needed to limit the serious and significant challenges faced by our disadvantaged young people during lockdown. We simply cannot allow the attainment gap to widen even further.
“Our commitment to helping every care-experienced and disadvantaged young person in Scotland secure equal education and life chances, is stronger than ever. The impact of the virus on our young people is huge and every inequality is exacerbated, but it has also made us even more determined to do whatever it takes for each and every one of them.”
“We need to continue to support all of our children’s health and wellbeing, but even more so disadvantaged children, who often rely on school life for a safe, nurturing and supportive environment. This additional funding will enable more children and young people and their families to maintain the vital mentoring relationships that have been developed through the programme.”
Hang Ho, Head of Global Philanthropy, J.P. Morgan said
“It’s more important than ever to support these young people. In the current environment, the internet is crucial for accessing learning and essential school resources. Ensuring young people stay connected to their mentors and continue to benefit from that relationship has never been more critical.”
The programme has received praise from mentors and young people for the range of virtual meeting options it has introduced to facilitate ongoing relationships.
MCR mentor Bernadine Blair recently had her first video call with her mentee whom she normally meets weekly at Bannerman High School, Glasgow.
“It was so good to catch up with my mentee. To me it was like catching up with a friend that you haven’t seen for a while and was lovely! We discussed anything and everything. I think it is really important to continue face to face conversations during these strange and difficult times as there is more pressure on individuals, not only physically with social distancing, but mentally.”
Bernadine’s mentee was equally pleased at the opportunity to meet online.
“Meeting by video chat was the best experience I could have had with my mentor, it was great chatting to someone from outside my family.”
At the core of the MCR programme are mentoring sessions between a young person and their mentor who is fully trained to listen and encourage a young person. Building caring and trusting relationships is at the heart of the recent Care Review Recommendations and MCR mentoring is a highly effective way for this to be implemented.