A Diocese of Guildford project to support young people has secured funding from BBC Children in Need which will allow its important work to continue.
The ‘Bridges’ scheme, founded to help disadvantaged young people address behavioural problems and realise their potential, has been granted just under £90k; funding its paid coordinator role for a further three years, which is currently available to apply for, and the expenses of volunteers.
Established three years ago in partnership with Surrey Police, ‘Bridges’ typically sees around 20 young people meeting, usually fortnightly, for hour-long counselling sessions. The participants are supported by a team of 18 trained volunteer mentors who work with participants individually, usually for periods of around a year. The project uses these meetings to help young people build self-awareness and empathy, form healthy relationships with peers and foster positive decision making processes.
Young people including carers, pupils with poor school attendance, and those subject to either a Child in Need or Child Protection plan, are typically referred via the police, their school or the Family Support Work team and social services.
Tony Oakden, who leads the project for the Diocese of Guildford, welcomed the funding: “we are delighted to have secured this funding which will help open up the project to more young people,” he said
“Some of the transformations so far have been remarkable.”
“The project has a fantastic reputation among statutory and voluntary groups, and the fact that some young people are referred directly by their parents shows how highly it is regarded and trusted.
Jennie, a head teacher from a school which refers young people to the project said:
“We’ve worked with the Bridges Project for almost two years now and would highly recommend the service it provides.
“It is a very professional and well run project.”
“For these students having someone outside of school that they can meet with and discuss a variety of issues is a highlight of their week – they also have fun!
“Students report that they enjoy meeting with their mentor, having someone to talk to that is not from a statutory agency and someone that they can bond with. The project has made a massive difference to a small selection of our students and is a service that we feel very fortunate to have access to.”
Michael, a parent of one of the young people involved in the scheme, said:
“The mentoring has been helping my son and he really looks forward to his meetings - they’ve had a very positive effect on him.
“He has really calmed down in school and seems much happier.”
Jo Cookes, Director communities engagement for the Diocese of Guildford, said: “it’s fantastic to see the wide range of impact which has been achieved through Bridges, and we’re delighted it can continue. I’m sure with the ability to affect meaningful change, someone out there will see this role and think ‘that’s me!’ – if so, we’d love to hear from you.”
N.B. The name of the parent and Head quoted has been changed, to preserve anonymity of participants.