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In 2015 Le Chéile Mentoring and Youth Justice Support Services commissioned this evaluation to assess the impact of Le Chéile’s mentoring services for young people who offend and their parents/carers, looking at a range of potential outcomes for both groups. Le Chéile also commissioned an assessment of the social return on investment.

A range of stakeholders took part in the evaluation, including young people and parents who were mentored, volunteer mentors, Probation and Le Chéile staff and other significant professionals.

The research methodology comprised both qualitative and quantitative methods, including face-to-face or phone interviews, focus groups, surveys and case file analysis.

The evaluation found that young people who were mentored by Le Chéile come from a variety of backgrounds. The outstanding common feature is of course that they have committed an offence and appeared before the courts. This marks Le Chéile mentees as different from mentees under other programmes in Ireland and internationally. The mentees share many features found among young offenders generally, for example, impulsivity, indifferent attitudes to offending, negative peer group influence, poor school attendance, poor supervision, and alcohol and drug use.

A major finding of the evaluation is that mentoring has significant positive impacts for young people who engage with the service, with the biggest gains made in the areas of self-confidence, hopefulness, communications, engagement in activities and, crucially, offending behaviour. The finding of a reduction in offending behaviour of 28 percent is significant given international experience.

For parent mentees, the most significant benefits are in the areas of self-confidence and emotional well-being. Benefits also accrue in terms of improved self-esteem, hopefulness and ability to manage stress, improved parenting skills and family relationships and greater involvement in activities outside the home.

The evaluation found the current Le Chéile model of mentoring to be robust and effective, with the strong positive relationship between the mentor and mentee a key feature. The fact that mentors are volunteers was highlighted as a major strength of the model. Mentoring was also seen as having a valuable role in providing support for young people during care and in transition from care.

The partnership between Le Chéile the Probation Service was recognised as important and was regarded as positive and professional.

The total value of Le Chéile’s mentoring service in 2015 is calculated at €4,850,146 and costs at €1,093,647, giving a social return on investment of €4.35 for every €1 invested in Le Chéile. The report was assessed independently by Social Value International and satisfied the requirements of its report assurance process.

Regarding Le Chéile’s pilot mentoring in detention service, mentees and their families appreciated the support at a difficult time and mentors commented that it strengthened the basis for mentoring after release.

Given the high social return on investment from mentoring and in the interests of equal access to services nationally, it is recommended that additional resources should be provided to enable expansion of Le Chéile services to areas of the country that are not currently served. Consideration should be given to providing mentoring earlier before young people become involved in serious or recidivist offending.

Overall the evaluation found that Le Chéile’s model of mentoring for young people and parents is effective and produces significant positive impacts over a range of areas for both young people and parents who participate in mentoring.

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