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An ABC of mentors’ talk about disaffected youth: alternative lifestyles, benefit dependency or complete dunces?

Colley, Helen (2001) An ABC of mentors’ talk about disaffected youth: alternative lifestyles, benefit dependency or complete dunces? ISSN 0262-9798

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Abstract

Mentoring is increasingly popular with policy-makers as a way of addressing disaffection among young people. Evaluative research from a number of such schemes emphasise the importance of empathy on the part of mentors building relationships with young people. However, there is little empirical evidence to substantiate the implicit claim that mentors demonstrate such empathy. This paper draws upon the findings of a qualitative research project about mentoring relationships between university students and disaffected youth. The research investigated ways in which mentors talked about disaffected young people, and how this might impact upon the mentoring process. It eschewed psychological and individualised approaches which dominate the literature. This paper traces mentors' views to the wider political and social context, through identifying their source in official discourse. It considers whether such mentoring interventions engender solidarity with the socially excluded or reinforce prejudice against them, and raises implications for the training and support of mentors working with disaffected youth.

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