Engaging Volunteers in Youth Justice Services: Le Chéile Mentoring’s Story
Le Cheile (Irish word meaning ‘together’) is a national, volunteer mentoring and family support service in Ireland working with young people and their families, where the young person has offended or is at risk of offending.
Le Cheile (https://lecheile.ie/) is a not-for-profit charitable body, a Community Based Organisation (CBO), working in partnership with Probation Officers to deliver mentoring services and support to young people on probation and parents/carers of young people on probation, as well as parents on probation. Le Cheile is funded by the Probation Service and the Department of Justice.
Youth Mentoring is a one-to-one support programme provided by Le Cheile, that matches a volunteer mentor with a young person. Mentors act as a positive role model, advisor and friendly supporter. The mentoring relationship will typically last up to one year or more. Mentoring sessions take place weekly for up to three hours. Both the volunteer mentor and the young person plan and participate in various structured activities to help build self-esteem and self-confidence.
Volunteer mentors offer young people support, stability, general guidance and help them make choices, as well as set achievable goals and realistic challenges. They listen, care, give advice, and share information and life/career experience with them. Mentoring has been proven to result in improved self-confidence, hopefulness, communications skills, engagement in activities and, crucially, a reduction in offending behaviour.
An independent evaluation has found that the mentoring model is proven to support young people to reduce their offending behaviour by an average of 28%. The positive impacts of mentoring include gains in the area of self-confidence, hopefulness, communications, engagement in activities and reduction of offending behaviour.
Probation Service funded initiatives, such as Le Cheile, that involve volunteers, are successful because they are well resourced and have excellent staff support, with robust policies and procedures, and provide good training and supervision. In addition, rigorous recruitment and selection policies and procedures ensure a quality staff team and service.
In 2022 Le Cheile supported 174 young people and 94 parents who were engaged with the Criminal Justice System. This was made possible by a team of over 230-trained volunteer mentors. In 2022 Le Cheile conducted over 40+ training sessions for volunteers.
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