Our referral ballot system

Our referral ballot system

Demand for our volunteer mentoring service for 11-21 year olds is huge, and sadly our capacity is limited. To maximise fairness of access, when we open to new referrals we run a ballot system to select those who can refer. Below is a Q&A explaining how this works and what to do next.

When will referrals for volunteer mentoring be accepted?

For young people aged 11-21 (year 7 and above), we hope to open again to applications to refer for volunteer mentoring in spring 2021.

What about 7-11 year olds?

Our primary mentees are referred directly by the Behaviour & Attendance Panels which represent primary schools in Bath and Norton Radstock. If you’d like a 7-11 year old to be considered for volunteer mentoring in future, please speak to the child’s school headteacher.

How many 11-21 year olds benefit from a volunteer mentor?

Our total caseload in this age group is up to 36 at any one time. We open for applications to refer periodically and usually match around 60-70 young people with a new mentor over the course of a year. This may be limited or delayed this year if additional Covid-19 restrictions such as local lockdowns are brought in, though we are able to engage young people remotely.

How does the referral process work for 11-21 year olds?

We accept applications to refer by email for a week-long period. We then randomly select up to 25 young people for initial assessment in a blind ballot. An external professional will supervise this to ensure fairness.

An application to refer will contain identifying information about the young person and confirm that they meet the criteria below. Successful applicants will be contacted for initial assessment, and if qualifying will be invited to make a full referral within a further week.

If these full referrals are not returned in time, or we later find that any of these young people do not meet criteria for this service, we may select additional young people by the same process from the original applications, and contact them to invite them to refer in full. This process will continue until the places are filled.

What are the referral criteria for volunteer mentoring?

Young people must:

  • be at school or live within the county of Bath & NE Somerset
  • be able to benefit from a talking-based intervention
  • be actively interested in being mentored
  • be willing to commit to meeting weekly for ~2 hours usually outside school hours for up to a year to chat, reflect and do activities according to their own positive interests in the community
  • have parent/carer consent to be mentored if under 18
  • consent (or have parent/carer consent if under 18) for relevant information to be shared with other agencies supporting the family, including schools

They also need to meet at least 2 of the following criteria:

  • in or leaving care
  • disengaged from education or at potential risk of exclusion
  • not in education, employment or training (NEET)
  • facing difficulties out of school (e.g. family breakdown, family health issues, care responsibilities)
  • facing difficulties with emotional wellbeing (e.g. isolation, anxiety, low mood, risky behaviours, bullying)
  • displaying early signs of anti-social behaviour.

Our referral checklist sets out all our standard criteria. Your application to refer will need to confirm that the young person meets the conditions above.

How is mentoring affected by Covid-19?

We are able to offer remote mentoring if restrictions do not permit face to face mentoring at any point. It is helpful if the young person is able and willing to maintain weekly contact with their mentor online or by phone in the event of future lockdown or isolation periods, subject to our safety rules, with family consent. However, we will not exclude those who may have issues accessing online mentoring.

All young people will need to follow our Covid-19 safety guidelines (as will mentors), which will be clearly explained and kept updated.

If the young person has significant health vulnerabilities, or family members in the same household do, which increase the risks of face to face mentoring or being driven in a mentor’s car (all subject to our safety rules) we will assess case by case whether we can safely mentor them face to face and discuss options if not.

Why do we use a ballot process to select your people for referral?

Because we have only limited capacity and we know demand for mentoring is very high, we have to find a way to choose young people as fairly as possible. Previously we have accepted applications to refer on a first-come, first-served basis. Last time, we filled all our spaces within 45 minutes.

We feel this disadvantages young people who don’t have a professional such as a teacher able to make the referral in this short time, and we know it’s frustrating and stressful for people making referrals. No system is perfect but we hope this one creates a level playing field and makes the process easier for everyone.

Why not give places to young people based on the highest levels of need?

As an early help service, mentoring really benefits young people who are showing signs of difficulties but are not yet at the point of crisis. Young people are also working with volunteers, and we have to make sure we accept mentees who can be safely supported by a trained volunteer, rather than a professional.

So even if we could be sure about who had the highest needs, we couldn’t use this to select young people. Our alternative services to support young people with higher needs may be suitable, and we signpost to other organisations too.

We are also accepting a small number of referrals for volunteer mentoring from the BathNES Early Help Panel, which supports families needing help but who do not meet social care thresholds. These mentees tend to be at the highest levels of need we can support with a volunteer mentor.

Our professional mentoring service offers all the same benefits of volunteer mentoring but is delivered by paid staff who can support greater levels of need or more complex situations. There is a fee for this support which is often covered from a young person’s EHCP. 

What should I do now?

If you are a professional supporting a young person who might benefit, please chat to them and their family about volunteer mentoring and ensure this is something they would all like to do. Work through our referral checklist to ensure the criteria are met. You can do this at any time to be ready to apply when we are next accepting referrals.

Our application window is currently closed. For reference, the steps you will need to follow when it next opens are set out below, but please be aware we cannot currently accept applications.

For teachers and other professionals:

  • Email refer@mentoringplus.net
  • Include your name and full contact details including a daytime phone number
  • Include the name of your organisation e.g. school if you represent one
  • Include the initials (NOT full name) and date of birth of the young person you wish to refer
  • Confirm that you have competed the referral checklist and they meet criteria (there is no need to attach it).

We reserve the right to reject applications to refer which do not include all the above information.

Families and young people wanting to self-refer:

  • Email refer@mentoringplus.net
  • Include your name and full contact details including a daytime phone number
  • Let us know that this is a family or self referral application
  • Include the initials (NOT full name) and date of birth of the young person who wants to be mentored
  • Confirm that you have the consent of the young person you wish to refer, and their parent/carer if under 18
  • Confirm that you have competed the referral checklist and the young person meets criteria (there is no need to attach it).

We reserve the right to reject applications to refer which do not include the above information.

If you need support completing the application or using email, please call us during the application period, or seek help from the young person’s school or another trusted adult. You will need to use an email address to which we can send a reply that you’ll receive safely.

Applications can only be submitted during the opening period. We hope to open next in spring 2021.

What if a school sends in dozens of applications, won’t that increase their chances of success?

When we open for applications, we limit schools to a maximum of 3 applications each, and other organisations e.g. charities to 2 applications each, to help ensure fairness. Each application relates to just one young person, so each individual has the same chance of being selected in the ballot.

The first applications received will be added to the ballot, so we ask referrers to communicate within their organisations to decide internally who they wish to refer.

How does this referral process help ensure equal opportunity to access mentoring for all sections of our community?

As long as we receive an application, there is an equal chance for that young person to be selected in the ballot and invited to make a full referral. We need to ask referrers to make sure that they don’t overlook any young people who might benefit, being inclusive to all backgrounds, heritage and different types of need.

Over the last few years we’ve supported a greater proportion of BAME young people than are represented in our community as a whole. We’re not a specialist service for supporting young people with disabilities, but if an individual can fully benefit from mentoring without significant extra resources needed, we will work hard to ensure they can be included if possible. Many of our young people are supported with learning and other difficulties such as dyslexia, ADHD etc.

We usually receive many fewer referrals for girls than boys. We continue to ask referrers to be aware of young people who may have significant challenges but present them in different ways, such as less vocally, so that their needs are not overlooked.

When will the application window open next?

We delayed opening to applications during 2020 due to lockdown, but we hope to open more regularly in future. More regular opening will mean smaller numbers accepted at a time, but this will help ensure young people accepted for mentoring have the shortest possible wait to be matched. We aim to open next in spring 2021.

If my application is not successful, can I stay on a waiting list?

Once the process above is complete, we will not keep the other applications. The emails will be securely deleted.

We want young people, families and professionals to feel 100% clear who is being supported by Mentoring Plus and who is not, so there is no waiting list for those who are not successful in the ballot.

We will clearly communicate to everyone who has made an application what the outcome is, make suggestions for other services, and invite them to apply next time. If you are supporting a family to apply to refer, please help ensure they understand the full process.

We maintain our referrers’ mailing list so we can keep referrers and families updated about new referral opportunities. We will keep you on this list unless you choose to unsubscribe, and can add names on request.

If there’s so much demand for mentoring, why are there so few places available?

Like all services, we are limited by budget as to how many people we can support. We have to ensure our practitioners have a caseload they can safely look after – even though the mentoring is done by volunteers, our professionals have to train and support them. A lot of practitioners’ work involves responding to safeguarding concerns and working with schools, families and other agencies to provide joined-up care and make sure the voice of the young person and family is heard.

We’re fortunate in BathNES that our local authority still funds preventative services like ours, and our council commission currently contributes over one-third of the total cost of the service. As a registered charity we work hard to fundraise for the rest, but our donations from businesses and community events reduced during lockdown.

If you’d like to see more capacity in services like ours, please help us spread the word about how important they are, influence decision-makers like councillors and MPs, and help raise funds for them. Please contact us if you’d like to help.

Got a question not answered above?

We are a small organisation and have to prioritise our daily work supporting young people. We ask you only to call about a future referral if you have a question not answered above and which you need to ask immediately. There will be lots of opportunity to discuss an individual referral in detail when we next open to applications and if you are successful in the ballot.

We try to be available during office hours on 01225 429694.