Senior judge’s plea to Glasgow City Council

Lady Rae has urged Glasgow City Council to reconsider plans to cut funding for a mentoring scheme that has "transformed" the lives of disadvantaged young people.

A leading Scots judge has appealed to council leaders to continue to fund a scheme that “keeps young people away from people like me.”

The Herald revealed in February that Glasgow City Council is considering cuts to the  “transformational” MCR Pathways mentoring scheme.

Founder Dr Iain MacRitchie warned that the consequences “would be felt for a lifetime” by young people across the city.

In a letter to the council, the honorable Lady Rita Rae said it was the first time she had written such a letter but had done so “without hesitation”.

Lady Rae has urged Glasgow City Council to consider plans to cut funding 'very carefully'

Lady Rae, who is the University of Glasgow’s Rector, said she had been involved in the project at its inception and wanted to intervene, “as someone with knowledge of young people who are greatly disadvantaged”.

She writes: “The assistance I seek is to right a wrong which risks writing off this generation and future generations of Glasgow’s most disadvantaged young people

“I need not repeat what was said by the press. I was shocked to see it.

“What that support does for young people is just amazing. It helps many move forward with hope for their future, to realise that they can achieve goals.

“It can also keep them in education and, importantly, away from people like me in the day job!”

She added: “As a solicitor, advocate and judge I have seen so many young people ending up in the criminal courts because they have had no guidance, no proper parenting and often no structure in their lives.

Lady Rae, who has presided over some of Scotland’s biggest criminal cases including the murder of Glasgow student Karen Buckley by Alexander Pacteau, said it was important also to consider the victims of crime.

She said: “All I ask is that the Council gives very careful consideration to all the implications, including those long term, of removing or reducing funding and that it comes to the conclusion that no reduction for this wonderful project is put through.”

Founded in 2007, MCR Pathways provided 1-to-1 mentoring for young people.

Independent research had previously found that the scheme had significantly improved retention rates, attainment levels and positive destinations for young people taking part.

Pupils also benefitted from improved attendance, increased confidence and greater levels of motivation.

It comes as the charity publishes the findings of a report that shows 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%.

In the year-end survey, 83% of young people stated that having a mentor improved their confidence and helped them understand their talents and strengths while 86% said it supported them in identifying goals.

More than 71% of young people supported by MCR nationally are from the 40% most deprived areas based on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD).

Children and young people in Glasgow have benefitted from 25,707.50 hours of mentoring so far over 2023-2024.

The charity has appointed a new chief executive, Sharon McIntyre, formerly of Skills Development Scotland (SDS) whose connection to MCR dates back to 2018 when she was a mentor.

She said: “Ensuring every young person is defined by their talent and never their circumstances is personal. It matters. It is a definition of a developed country and skilled economy and what we expect as a minimum standard and core value.”

Melodie Crumlin, who is the founding CEO of award-winning Glasgow-based charity PEEK. (Possibilities for Each and Every Kid) has been appointed her deputy.

Leon Cameron.

A graduate of the programme warned that cuts could lead to some of the city’s most vulnerable people dropping out of education.

Leon Cameron, a care-experienced university student who went through the programme, says his mentorship changed his life.

He said: “It was something to look forward to as a vulnerable young person in school, it was someone you could confide in and talk about work, school or your family life which was something that was really important to me.”

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: “A review of our MCR mentoring co-ordinators is underway following the council budget in February.

“No decision has been taken to stop the programme and several options are being explored.

“The cross party, political oversight group will be made aware of the options and we will keep staff and the relevant trade unions informed and updated of developments.”

Glasgow City Council’s former Director of Education, Maureen McKenna, described MCR as a “ground-breaking initiative” that works “because we have embedded it within our core business and complements the work of our teachers and school staff.”

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