Skip to content

United Borders: B.U.S

A 10-week intervention where at risk 10-17 year olds make music and recieve mentoring

Evaluation type

Feasibility study
See project

Organisation name

United Borders

Funding round

Another chance – Diversion from the criminal justice system




London, London, London

Activity Types

Arts participation, Mentoring




University of Birmingham


July 2023

What does this project involve?

The Building and Understanding of Self (B.U.S) programme is a music mentoring intervention that aims to reduce involvement in serious youth violence and offending. Delivered by the charity United Borders, B.U.S is a 10-week intervention where 10-17 year olds who are at-risk of involvement in violence make music in a specifically adapted bus that features a recording studio. The bus is parked in neutral spaces in north London, and invites young people for 2-hour weekly music production sessions, where they also receive mentoring support from a matched mentor. Mentors then offer the young person and their families as-needed support beyond the sessions.

Why did YEF fund this project?

As the YEF Toolkit explains, mentoring interventions are, on average, associated with a moderate impact on reducing serious youth violence. However, there are still gaps in the evidence, and we particularly require robust evaluations of mentoring programmes in an English or Welsh context. YEF, therefore, funded an evaluation of B.U.S. to begin to extend the evidence base in this area.

The feasibility study aimed to establish the Theory of Change underpinning B.U.S, ascertain the short, medium and long-term outcomes that the programme is aiming to impact, identify how a control condition could be established in a future pilot trial, and assess how feasible the intervention is and whether it should progress to a pilot study. To explore these questions, the evaluation used monitoring data from the project’s case management system, in addition to collecting data on selected outcome measures related to behaviour (including the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and the Self-Report Delinquency Scale). The evaluation also included interviews and focus groups with 6 members of United Borders staff, 8 professionals from referring agencies and partners, and 7 participating young people.

During the feasibility study, which ran from December 2021-November 2022, 55 young people received the B.U.S intervention. 13 identified as Black African, 12 as White, 10 as Black Caribbean, 10 as Mixed ethnicity, 4 as Asian, 3 as Other Black background and 3 as other ethnic background. The study took place during the coronavirus pandemic, requiring both the delivery and evaluation teams to adapt to challenging circumstances.

Key conclusions

The feasibility study established a clear ToC indicating that B.U.S is underpinned by several key mechanisms. These mechanisms include the creative nature of the programme, the neutral space in which the programme takes place, meeting young people ‘where they are’ and taking a trauma-informed approach.
Several short-, medium-, and long-term intended outcomes of B.U.S were identified. In the short term, these include the aims of improving peer relationships, reducing behavioural problems and improving emotional functioning. Intended medium-term outcomes include building trust with young people from different areas. In the long term, B.U.S aims to reduce young people’s involvement in gangs, violence and offending.
It was possible to recruit eligible young people to the programme, and the intervention was delivered largely as originally intended. Young people received the expected number of sessions, mentors received appropriate supervision and support, referral routes to the programme were effectively monitored, all children enrolled were eligible and 55 young people completed B.U.S (surpassing a target of 50). Eighty-nine per cent of those who began the intervention completed it. The programme was also well regarded by those interviewed.
The evaluator identified several routes to construct a control group for a future pilot study. Their preferred option is to compare the established B.U.S programme with a lighter-touch mentoring initiative. The feasibility study did gather SDQ data (pre and post). However, the evaluator suggests that an alternative will be required to the SRDS in a future pilot study and proposes the International Self-Report Delinquency Study (ISRD).
B.U.S is a feasible intervention that is ready to undergo further evaluation in a pilot study. YEF has, therefore, funded a pilot trial that will report in Summer 2024.

What will YEF do next?

B.U.S is ready to undergo further evaluation in a pilot study. YEF have therefore funded a pilot trial that began in April 2023 and will report in Summer 2024. The pilot will use the control condition proposed by the evaluator, and will aim to assess evidence of promise, the feasibility of progressing to a larger randomised controlled trial, understand how the treatment and control interventions are received by participants, and establish a feasible method to measure outcomes of interest.

Download the report