Heather Bellamy spoke with Debra Green, the executive director of Redeeming Our Communities, about ROC Community Mentoring, the Troubled Family agenda, and the transformation that can come from being mentored for 26 weeks.

Debra Green
Debra Green

Heather: What is ROC Community Mentoring?

Debra: What we've found is that in communities there are a lot of people who fall through the system, whether that's young people, or what the Government call, 'Troubled Families'. I don't really like the name, but they are families where there are multiple problems going on under one roof.

There isn't always access to specialist help for those families and for those young people until they become the most acute and where the need is so severe that the local authority recognises they need specialist help.

So we're about prevention, before that family or that young person becomes so broken that it's very difficult to give them the help that they need. We want to draw alongside them with mentoring. Mentoring is walking alongside somebody and helping that person to set goals and have aspirations and to know how to achieve those. It's not about telling people what to do, it's more about walking through life with them and helping them to identify their aims and helping them to achieve those aims.

Heather: So you are there to listen and point them to services, or where they could progress in their goals?

Debra: Yes, definitely listening. I always say that listening is almost more important than speaking, and making sure that you've really heard where they're at; maybe some of the causes to the circumstances that they're now facing. Some of those things might be just as simple as, for example, a family that we've been working with, the mum who is the main carer in that home, can't get out of bed in the morning in time to get the child ready to get to school, so the child is constantly missing school. It's as simple as she didn't have an alarm clock. It was as simple as helping with the alarm clock, but also establishing a pattern of getting up early and maybe talking about things like the night before, have you got clothes ready, so that it's not a last minute panic?

It's things most people are thinking this is just common sense, but if you haven't had that role model or that upbringing yourself, it's more than common sense to you; it's something that you need a little bit of support and help in.

Heather: Who are COACH? Are they another organisation you're partnering with?

Debra: Yes, COACH is an organisation started by the Reverend Toby Baxter in London, as a counselling or mentoring scheme. Then Toby moved as far away as possible to Melbourne, Australia and went on the staff of Crossway Baptist Church and set up COACH in Australia, which has been running for about five years.

They have 90 different communities taking part in the COACH programme, which has brought massive transformation to Australian communities and walking alongside those families and young people.

Interestingly, I think it's 63% of those mentees who undergo the programme join a Christian community, because basically they experience somebody investing love and investing time and helping them with the practical issues of life. COACH is predominately in Australia and we have partnered with them as ROC Mentoring and taken the COACH training model on so we can develop that across the UK.

Heather: Do you mentor in just a few set criteria, or if you get a family or person referred, could you be dealing with anything and everything that person seems to have a need in?

Debra: When you first start to work with a family, that family will have been referred to you by the Housing Association or the local authority. There's a referral pathway, which could be the local authority or it could be a GP's surgery. One of our projects takes all their referrals from the GP's surgery.

You have training for that person who's going to facilitate that mentoring process. They're going in for 26 weeks, either once a week or once a fortnight. They're going into that family and the very first thing they do is establish a rapport with the person who needs the help the most, let's say it's the mum of the home. They establish a rapport with her and identify the main areas of concern.