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Children and young people facing complex and multiple difficulties in life often experience low self esteem and social isolation. They are at higher risk of drug or alcohol addiction, becoming involved in criminal activity and are less likely to achieve academically whilst more likely to experience poor mental health in later life.

Friendship Works has been working with children and young people like these for over 40 years, matching volunteer mentors with young people to explore their potential and provide many of the protective factors known to build resilience in children and young people. Our mentoring model is unique in London and  based on successful US charity Big Brothers Big Sisters and childhood attachment research.

The service aims to:

  • Improve children and young people’s social and emotional development through access to quality friendships – developing a greater ability to understand, manage and express feelings whilst making and maintaining positive relationships and attachments
  • Enable children and young people to view themselves in a more positive way providing a stronger sense of identify and an increased resilience – improving self esteem, confidence and sense of self control
  • Broaden young people’s horizons through access to new opportunities – having more fun, exploring new hobbies, interests and talents
What we do

We provide children in need of support with an adult volunteer mentor to meet with them regularly for at least two years to help them explore their potential, get more out of their childhood, and develop valuable life skills.

Through regular outings, our mentors and mentees have the chance to discover mutual interests, take part in new activities and get to know London better. As our matches spend time together, they are able to build a safe, stable friendship, which helps increase a young person’s self esteem and confidence. Having a trusted adult to talk to about their lives gives them a chance to express themselves without fear of being judged, and supports their emotional well being.

All these factors work together to build resilience, meaning a child or young person is better equipped to deal with life’s challenges. This gives them a more positive view of themselves; develops a better understanding of their role within their community, and ultimately helps them find their place in the world.

Who is the service for?

We work with children and young people aged 5-18, primarily in the London boroughs of Islington, Camden, Tower Hamlets and Lambeth who are facing a range of challenges in life. There is no typical Friendship Works child and each young person we support is unique with varying needs however all are facing multiple disadvantages.

The types of circumstances they may be dealing with include:

  • Being a young carer
  • Living in families with a history of domestic violence or substance misuse
  • Parents with mental health difficulties
  • Managing their own mental or emotional health difficulties
  • Living in the care system
  • A diagnosed Special Educational Need and/or Autistic Spectrum Condition
  • Being subject to a Child Protection Plan

If you are unsure whether our service would be appropriate for a child you know or if you are aware of funding outside of the areas we can currently cover please contact our Head of Service at kate.gledhill@family-action.org.uk who will be happy to discuss things further.

How to access the service

To refer a child or young person please email our Friendship Works Head of Service Delivery kate.gledhill@family-action.org.uk with a brief outline of their current circumstances and need for a mentor. Kate will get back to you to confirm whether we have space available on our waiting list at present and full details of how to make your referral. We are able to accept referrals from

  • Parents or carers
  • Schools
  • Social services
  • Other organisations working with children or young people
  • Young people who wish to refer themselves

When referring a child or young person it is important to make sure that:

  • Both the child and parent must actively want to have a mentor, and understand that it is voluntary.
  • The family and home environment must be safe for a volunteer mentor to go into, with no ongoing issues that might compromise their safety.
  • The referrer can outline why child/young person being referred needs the long term support of an adult mentor in relation to our core service aims

Evidence and Impact

Our mentoring model is based on the successful American charity Big Brothers Big Sisters and research into childhood attachment highlighting the importance of social and emotional development in building the resilience needed to face challenges in life. Our service does not seek to force change or fix behaviour but instead build a positive friendship between a child and mentor based on who they are. It is the strength of this relationship that increases self esteem and confidence encouraging a strong, positive sense of identity.

With 40 years of experience witnessing the impact of Friendship Works and seeing children’s lives change for the better we are confident our model works however we continue to conduct external evaluations and internal reviews to ensure we maintain this. Our work has been positively assessed by experts from Guy’s Hospital, University College London and New Philanthropy Capital.

As well as ongoing monitoring of the progress of our friendships, we meet regularly with parents, children and mentors to evaluate the impact of the relationship. Analysis of reviews with parents from April 2013 to August 2015 indicate the positive impact that mentoring has had:

After one year of being matched with a mentor:

  • 90% of parents thought their child was better at expressing feelings
  • 97% of parents thought their child was feeling happier
  • 96% of parents thought their child had developed new skills and interests
  • 96% of parents thought their child had increasing self esteem

In the same time period, 100 % of parents whose children had been matched for two years reported these positive changes in their children.

Our service is relationship led and a young person’s experience with their mentor is not always something which can be measured quantitatively. To ensure we evidence and evaluate these aspects we also capture qualitative data such as case studies, stories and quotes from young people, mentors and parents to help tell the story of our friendships

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Contact Details


Find us

Friendship Works
24 Angel Gate
City Road
London
EC1V 2PT

Opening times

Monday  09.00-05.00
Tuesday  09.00-05.00
Wednesday  09.00-05.00
Thursday  09.00-05.00
Friday  09.00-05.00
Saturday  closed
Sunday  closed