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Mentors provide children and young people with guidance and support.

Estimated impact on violent crime:


Evidence quality:

1 2 3 4 5


1 2 3

Prevention Type

  • Secondary
  • Tertiary


  • Community


What is it?

Mentoring programmes match a child with a mentor and encourage them to meet regularly. These programs aim to help the child form a good relationship with a positive role model. This relationship could help the child to develop social skills, form constructive relationships with others, or develop positive behaviours and aspirations.

Mentors are often adults, but they can also be older peers of mentees. Mentors are often volunteers but are sometimes paid. Mentoring sessions usually take place weekly over a period of six to 24 months, but programmes can be shorter or longer. In some programmes, sessions follow a set agenda and involve specific activities. Other programmes are less structured, and the mentoring relationship is expected to evolve naturally. Mentoring can often take place alongside other activities, for example as part of a sports programme or music group.

There are several ways in which the mentor might support the mentee.

  • Acting as a positive role-model and setting a good example for a mentee. 
  • Developing a trusting relationship and providing emotional support.
  • Helping the mentee to develop life skills, social skills or communication skills.
  • Helping the mentee with learning and academic development.
  • Listening carefully and asking questions to help the mentee gain insight into their own thinking.
  • Providing practical support with job applications or access to services.
  • Sharing their networks and introducing mentees to new people and opportunities.  

Is it effective?

On average, mentoring programmes are likely to have a moderate impact on violent crime.

Mentoring is effective in both reducing crime and the behaviours associated with crime and violence. The research suggests that, on average, mentoring reduces violence by 21%, all offending by 14%, and reoffending by 19%.

Mentoring is likely to have a desirable impact on substance misuse, behavioural difficulties, educational outcomes, and self-esteem.

Mentoring programmes have tended to have larger impacts when they:

  • Work with children and young people at higher risk of involvement in crime, and  
  • Are delivered by counsellors instead of police officers or teachers.

How secure is the evidence?

We have moderate confidence in our estimate of the average impact on violent crime.

Our confidence is moderate because our estimate is based on eight studies and there was some variation in the results of the studies. Some studies suggest that the impact was higher and others suggest it was lower.

We have high confidence in our estimate of the average impact on reoffending.

Our confidence is high because our estimate is based on 23 studies. We dropped the evidence security rating from very high to high because there was a lot of variation in the results of the studies.

The review found two studies from the UK and Ireland. One study was a randomised control trial of the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programme with children aged 10-14 in Ireland. The study suggested that the programme failed to have an impact on behaviour or substance use. The other study was an evaluation of ‘Mentoring Plus’, a programme for young people at risk of social exclusion. The evaluation found desirable effects on educational attainment and employability skills but no effect on offending.

How can you implement it well?

Research suggests that whilst mentoring can be effective in reducing involvement in violence, it can be challenging to recruit mentors and mentees, and to keep them engaged in the programme. One review of 40 process evaluations, including an analysis of seven process evaluations of UK mentoring programmes, identified promising approaches to supporting positive engagement and outcomes.

Facilitating commitment from mentors and mentees

  • The personal qualities and motivations of potential mentors should be assessed during the recruitment process, to ensure those recruited demonstrate commitment to the programme. This process should also ensure that mentors understand their role.
  • Targeted recruitment of mentors is important in creating a diverse group of mentors that reflect different characteristics, such as genders, ethnicities, life experiences or disabilities. Some research suggests more positive outcomes where mentees and mentors share characteristics such as gender or ethnicity. Mentees have also shared positive feedback about being given the opportunity to select their own mentor from the group available.
  • Providing training for mentors could increase their commitment and mentoring skills. Training could cover listening and non-judgemental counselling skills, knowledge of local services for children, and role-play for dealing with various issues.
  • Developing a positive mentoring relationship, based on respect and trust, is key to both mentors and mentees engaging positively in the programme. Identifying a specific problem to address can help to build a positive relationship more quickly.

Facilitating positive outcomes for mentees

  • Mentoring programmes that provide supervision for mentors tend to have more positive outcomes. Supervision provides opportunities for mentors to debrief about their sessions, to reflect on their learning and to receive support or guidance.
  • Mentors with varied skills who can adapt to the needs of the mentee may facilitate more positive outcomes. For example, mentors might support academic work, listen to concerns, and provide emotional support. Mentoring relationships are more successful when they are built on trust and respect, rather than authority.
  • When parents or carers are aware of the mentoring programme and encourage mentees to attend sessions, mentees commit to the programme for longer and have more positive outcomes.   
  • The termination of the mentoring relationship needs to be carefully managed, to avoid feelings of abandonment or loss. Well-managed terminations involve a clear end-date, provide the mentee with resources or contacts with other organisations that may be useful, and celebrate the progress made together.

How much does it cost?

On average, the cost of mentoring is likely to be high.

Mentors are often (but not always) unpaid volunteers. However, there are likely to be substantial costs related to the salaries of project staff, project management, recruitment and training of mentors, and the cost of premises. The cost per participant can become very high if large numbers of mentors or mentees drop out of the programme.

The review found eight studies that reported cost information per mentee per programme, including seven from the United States and one from Australia. Cost per mentee ranged from £845 to £3,500, for programmes that ranged in duration from six months to two years. No evaluations from the UK provide cost per mentee.

The Youth Justice Board scheme of 80 mentoring programmes delivered in England and Wales between 2001 and 2004, found that on average, each mentee that received two or more sessions cost £11,903. Programmes varied in length from three months to 12 months, and participation ranged from three mentees to 217 mentees. The cost per participant varied greatly based on duration of the mentoring programme and how many mentors and mentees were involved.

Topic summary

  • On average, mentoring is likely to have a moderate impact on reducing violence and reducing reoffending.
  • Studies have found a lot of variation in impacts across programmes and have provided information about the characteristics of the more effective programmes. This information could help to maximise the impact of mentoring.
  • Mentoring programmes can be challenging to deliver. Programmes frequently encounter challenges with keeping mentors and mentees engaged and there are often large numbers of mentors and mentees who drop out.
  • Mentors are often unpaid volunteers so mentoring can initially seem like a cheap approach to supporting children and young people. However, there are often substantial costs related to project management and recruiting and supporting mentors.

Take away messages

  • Put in place high quality mentoring programmes for children at risk or already involved in violence.  
    • Provide one-to-one mentoring by trained adults .
    • Deliver at least six months of weekly one-to-one mentoring. 

YEF projects and evaluations

YEF funded evaluations across six mentoring programmes. Programmes delivery differed, ranging from 10-weeks to 12-months. Programmes had a range of aims which covered support to modify behaviour, divert and prevent crime, improve self-esteem, and increase the likelihood of staying in school.

Evaluations included:

  • Feasibility and pilot evaluation of ASSIST Trauma Care, an intensive mentoring and trauma informed therapeutic support
  • Feasibility and pilot evaluation of Divert, led by Lambeth Council in partnership with local charity Juvenis delivering 12 weeks mentoring following arrest
  • Feasibility evaluation of the Protective Sibling Mentoring Programme delivered by St Christopher’s Fellowship, which included mentoring for young people with a sibling known to be at risk
  • Feasibility evaluation of the Sw!tch Lives programme delivered by LifeLine Community Project providing universal workshops and targeted support.
  • Feasibility evaluation of the Reach Project delivering mentoring over 6-months
  • Feasibility study to establish whether we could run a multi-site trial of mentoring

Advice for commissioning mentoring programmes
EIF guidance for commissioners on commissioning mentoring programmes.

Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring
Guidance from the MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.