MCR Pathways scheme under review by Highland Council

Highland Council is reviewing provision of the MCR Pathways scheme
Plans to bring a “life-changing” mentoring scheme for disadvantaged young people in-house to cut costs have sparked concerns.
Highland Council is reviewing provision of the MCR Pathways scheme, which offers one-to-one support to vulnerable young people including care-experienced pupils.
It has been available in schools including Dingwall Academy, Inverness Royal Academy and Lochaber High since 2021.
The local authority wants to develop its own programme as part of the Work Force for the Future program and said MCR staff would be involved in the redesign.
Highland Council pays around £169,000 annually towards the running of the scheme.
Highland Council is reviewing provision of the MCR Pathways scheme

It comes after it emerged Glasgow City Council is considering cutting funding for the programme.

Prompting founder Dr Iain MacRitchie to warn that the consequences “would be felt for a lifetime” by young people in the city where it was launched in 2007.

Sharon McIntyre, Chief Executive of the charity, said there is concern that the new model in Highland may not offer the specialised support young people have had access to and it is seeking urgent talks with the council.

She said the council was cutting the project when it is entitled to another year of funding from the Scottish Government.

She said: “At this point we don’t have a sense of what the real direction of travel is.

“It’s definitely been muted as a review but not as strong as Glasgow.
“If [they] are thinking of streamlining services to have a better focus on young people we are right at the table but what we don’t have a sense of is that young people are the driving force.
“Our concern is that young people we are supporting are then in a bigger pool of young people that the council has pledged to support through this generic mentoring scheme.”
She said young people and mentors had established “fantastic relationships” and there was a risk that progress could be undone in the transfer. 
She said: “We focus on young people in a holistic way, which we think the council can’t do because of its resources.
“We’ve got a very sophisticated matching process and an  incredible training programme for mentors.”
She said the charity had a large pool of mentors “who are deeply committed across the schools in Highland” and there was concern they wouldn’t have access to the same trauma-based support.
One Highland mentor added: “The kids that this service supports need it and not for it to be watered down.”
While some councils are considering cuts, one Scottish local authority is to start offering the scheme in August.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said pupils at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway will have access to support from August.
Earlier this week the charity published the findings of a new report that found attainment “increased significantly” for mentored, care-experienced young people in comparison to the national average.
Data shows that 41.3% of young people across Scotland achieved at least one Higher qualification before leaving school in comparison to the national level of 29.2%. This figure rises to 48.2% in Glasgow.
Those achieving at least three qualifications at National 5 level was 66.7%, compared with the national care experienced level of 43.8%.
A spokeswoman for Highland Council said: “The MCR co-ordinators are currently employed by The Highland Council and this will continue.
“They will be involved in the redesign process to develop a mentoring programme as part of the Work Force for the Future program, designed to further meet the needs of our young people across the Highland area.
“The expertise of THC staff and MCR will be invaluable in ensuring that all our young people who benefit from mentoring receive a service that supports them into a positive and sustained destination.
“The invaluable contribution that mentors make through MCR and other mentoring programmes is valued and appreciated by both THC and MCR in helping to develop the skills and attributions of our Future Workforce of the Highlands.”

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