ePolitix.com speaks to Gracia McGrath OBE about the opening of Chance UK's new office in South London.
Chance UK has just opened its first office in South London: what services will you be offering to young people?
We will be offering mentoring to 5-11 year-olds with behavioural difficulties who are identified as being at risk of developing criminal or anti-social behaviour later in life. These children will be matched with a volunteer adult mentor who will spend a year building the child's confidence, expanding their interests, as well as identifying and building on their strengths. This will improve their lives, the lives of their families, their education and their relationships with adults and other children.
Why did you choose to offer mentoring to young people in Lambeth?
It was clear, having had 15 years' experience working in north and east London, that the need we were meeting so well there was mirrored in south London. In Lambeth, there was a commitment from every level of the council to have this service available to primary school children in the borough. This meant that we could move quickly to get the programme up and running, and work in very close partnership with the local authority, the council and with education.
Lambeth were impressed by the results of the longitudinal study into Chance UK's work carried out by the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths University, showing that 98 per cent of our children achieve a reduction in their level of behavioural difficulty, and 51 per cent have no behavioural difficulty at all at the end of the mentoring year. Naturally, Lambeth thought that this kind of first class service should be available to children in their borough.
Do you think the government is doing enough to help young people in London boroughs such as Lambeth? What more would you like to see done?
I think that all political parties have now started to realise that intervening early is absolutely crucial to bringing about changes in children's lives. I'm delighted to see that this is happening, and that they accept the principle of early intervention. What I would like to see more of is early intervention in practice through funding programmes like Chance UK.
Although in this economic climate, the temptation must be to fire-fight, and to work principally with those young people who are in crisis, if we do this, then we will spend all our time and resources fire-fighting. This is not only financially draining, but can actually prevent children from achieving their potential. What I would like to see is the government having the courage to say, "We have to invest now to save in the future."