25.Jul.2007

Minister for the Third Sector supports Time Together mentoring project

Phil Hope MP, Minister for the Third Sector, echoed Gordon Brown’s recognition of the importance of volunteering when he spoke at TimeBank’s Time Together launch of their independent study into the impact of mentoring on integration yesterday.

Time Together, featured in the Prime Minister’s new book Britain’s Everyday Heroes, matches local people with refugees in one to one mentoring relationships. Mentors support and encourage their mentees as they seek to achieve their goals in education, employment and integration.

Phil Hope said: “It is a testament to the strength of our society that so many people, like those taking part in Time Together, are willing to give up their time to support others. More and more people are doing this, volunteering levels have increased dramatically from 2001 to 2005 and now one in two adults regularly volunteers at least once a month in their communities.”

The event, at Church House, Westminster, celebrated five years of Time Together, and was marked with the findings of an independent study evaluating Time Together and the impact of mentoring on integration. The project runs nationally in 24 locations and has enabled over 1500 refugees to feel more at home in the UK.

Speaking about the study and Time Together, Phil Hope said: “The study shows that government funding can go a long way, helping to take a single idea, run in a small number of areas to a national programme recognised as a leader in the field of mentoring and integration.”

The longitudinal study is the first of its kind and took 18 months to complete working closely with 30 mentoring pairs. The findings show that Time Together and mentoring is highly successful in facilitating the integration of refugee mentees into the UK. In more than a quarter of the pairs in the study, the impact of the mentoring relationship for the mentee was no less than transformative and life changing.

An increase in confidence was felt to be the main reason why the relationship had the ability to transform lives. This was the overriding benefit found by most successful matches and the root to achieving other aspects of integration. One mentee explained the boost and security the relationship offered as “having a friend somewhere, whom you can count on.”

The study revealed that all of the successful pairs felt an improvement in the English language was a key benefit. This was not only evident amongst mentees who knew very little English but also among the more fluent who appreciated the unique one to one opportunity to understand local accents and colloquial phrases.

Mentees in the study also found that mentors were crucial in setting and reaching realistic goals, such as education and employment that support their integration into their communities and new life.

The study overwhelmingly found that relationships create two-way benefits and learnings. Many mentors who took part in the study talked about the reward they felt from the relationship and described personally benefiting from the cultural exchange and the greater understanding of the experiences of refugees.

Paul Jackson, Chair of Trustees, TimeBank said: “When somebody comes to the UK as a refugee, no leaflet, map or booklet can give them the information to explain how to fit in with a new community, or how to start a new life. But spending a few hours a month with somebody local to the area is a unique chance to find out what it really means to live in Britain. Time Together is an extremely powerful example of how we can all change the world for the better by giving just a little of our time to do something positive.”

The Time Together event and study highlighted the importance of working in partnership including the network of local organisations that come together to make the project possible, Government support both financially and with advice on development, and the individual partnerships between a local person and a refugee that is the real testament to the power of giving time.

This was highlighted at the event by the showcasing of a new Time Together film featuring Time Together mentors and mentees including Faduma, 31, who fled civil war in Somalia in 2003. She says:

"Before I met my mentor, Michael, I was on the bottom step of a long ladder and I didn’t know how to take the next steps. I didn’t know anything about the UK employment, education or cultural systems. Michael was great because he helped me to find and apply for a university course in human rights advocacy and development studies and to understand the best way to go about finding a job.
 
"Before I met him I felt afraid and thought people would look at me as just another refugee. But Michael helped me to get my confidence back so I felt able to engage with people in the UK and build a life for myself. The thing about integration is it’s a two way street: I’ve learnt from Michael and he’s learnt from me."

Full details of the study can be found at www.timetogether.org.uk

ENDS

For further information and photographs:

Helen Platt
0207 785 6386
07889 332476
h.platt@timebank.org.uk

 

Notes to editors:

• Time Together was set up in 2002 by TimeBank, in response to a Government white paper that recommended the provision of mentoring schemes to help refugees integrate better in the UK. The project matches local people with refugees in one to one mentoring relationships. Mentors spend around five hours a month with their mentee. There are now 24 Time Together projects operating across the UK. www.timetogether.org.uk

• TimeBank tackles social issues by finding ways for people to give their time that inspire them and match their lives. We know it’s a lot to ask people to give up their time and so we are committed to finding ways that suit how people live and that addresses the needs of the world we live in. www.timebank.org.uk

• Gordon Brown speaks about Time Together in his new book BRITAIN'S EVERYDAY HEROES, published by Mainstream. For more information, see www.community-links.org