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Mayor's Mentoring Scheme is a Failure

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At its launch last July, Boris Johnson claimed that his flagship mentoring programme meant more to him "than anything else we do in City Hall."

Indeed, the programme is so important to Boris that he lists it as a key achievement in his re-election manifesto, claiming that over 1,000 volunteers have been recruited to "help and advise black boys in London."

Boris' relentless enthusiasm for the project is puzzling in the context of a GLA report in March, which concluded that the mentoring programme had "not met its delivery targets" and questioned whether the delivery partner - the University of East London - had the capacity to produce a significant number of mentoring relationships.

Most damaging was the revelation that eight months into the £1.4 million project, a mere 62 boys in the capital had been paired with a mentor.

This dismal performance review was no surprise to anyone who had followed the catalogue of failures that have dogged the programme since it's inception.

Even before its launch, the tendering process to run the programme met cries of cronyism after the highest scoring bid - a consortium of black organisations with a wealth of mentoring experience - was overlooked in favour of a partnership between the University of East London and 'The London Action Trust'; a charity which had Boris Johnson as a patron and Nicholas Griffin, the Mayor's budgetary advisor, as a trustee.

A few months later the London Action Trust had entered administration and the partnership between the University of East London and three other grass roots delivery organisations had fallen apart.

It didn't help matters when the Mayor's 'Ambassador for Mentoring' Ray Lewis told a GLA panel in January of this year that he did not actually know what his role was. When pressed as to how he might intervene to improve the stalled programme he admitted to having 'very little influence' and said he was loathe to 'cast pearl before swine'.

To get the most up to date figures on the programme I contacted the University of East London and got the following reply from Dr Ian Joseph, the author of the winning bid:

My involvement with the programme means that I do not have involvement in compiling figures.

Dr Joseph referred me back to the GLA, who told me that the number of paired mentors is now up to "approximately" 100. This figure is less than a third of the already significantly revised-down target given by the Mayor's office last October. It is an abysmally low attainment for such a high profile and expensive operation.

And yet, at hustings, on his website and in his glossy direct mail literature, Boris continues to hold up the scheme as a prime example of his commitment to creating youth opportunities and tackling knife crime. The claim that "1,000 volunteers" have been recruited is constantly quoted; a deliberately misleading figure, which actually refers to expressions of interest received.

Any project can run into difficulties but the litany of failures which have overshadowed the mentoring programme indicate that it doesn't "matter" to the Mayor as much as he claims in sound bites.

And with knife crime increasing every year since Boris was elected and youth unemployment at 23%, the communities affected will need to ask whether they too "matter" to City Hall or if it is time to give the Mayor for the rich his marching orders.

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