OPTIMISTIC: Mayor Boris Johnson and Ray Lewis at the launch of Capital Men in July
THE MAYOR’S beleaguered mentoring scheme for black boys in need of positive role models could be salvaged despite its disappointing start.
In July 2011, Boris Johnson and his ambassador for mentoring, Ray Lewis, launched the £1.3million ‘Capital Men’ scheme under which 1,000 at-risk African and Caribbean boys, aged 10 to 16, would be paired with inspirational mentors.
More than a year on, only 122 relationships have been established – far less than the 350 target mayoral advisor Munira Mirza pledged would have been completed by spring 2012.
But the programme is once again gathering pace after City Hall took the decision to sever ties with original delivery partner, University of East London (UEL), following serious delays, a Greater London Assembly (GLA) oversight committee meeting heard last week.
Leading public sector specialist, Rocket Science, has since been appointed to manage the contract on behalf of City Hall.
At the meeting on Wednesday, December 19, members questioned Lewis on the scheme’s progress to date.
The former governor of a young offenders institution said: “This mayor has taken a courageous step in embarking on this project. Nothing like this has ever been done in London before and, therefore, some of the problems we’ve seen are a result of the innovative nature of what we’ve taken on.
“Once we’ve cracked this, and we now have a model, I’m sure it’s going to work, and work well.”
The unpaid ambassador, whose role is voluntary, was brought on board by the mayor to help champion the scheme as well as “provide expert knowledge and assistance” having run the successful Eastside Academy since 2002.
Lewis has, however, been paid £2,000 to help restructure the training framework for the revamped mentoring programme.
Under the revised scheme, the UEL consortium will receive a total of £320,000 in order to fund 100 ‘live’ relationships for the duration of the programme.
A further £260,000 will be used to fund 300 additional relationships, but the remaining £720,000 will be allocated to the new scheme.
The sum will be handled by Rocket Science and awarded to successful organisations in amounts of between £75,000 and £200,000 to fund at least 650 relationships for a 12-month period.
It is hoped the original target of 1,000 mentoring relationships in seven key London boroughs – will be met under the renewed thrust.
Explaining to the committee as to why the scheme had suffered so many setbacks, Sir Eddie Lister, the mayor’s chief of staff, said: “The mayor was very keen [on this project], everybody could see the benefits.
“This was a marginalised group not being picked up by the system, and maybe we went too fast in hindsight. We were on a learning curve, but we did correct errors very quickly.”
He added that one of the reasons for the delays was a low number of participants signing up to the scheme.
GLA member Jennette Arnold OBE, deputy chair, said:
“I come to this very cross, because there has never been a pot of money on this scale for this area of work.
“It’s not that this work hasn’t been done before, there’s some excellent work being done by Boys to Men and the Stephen Lawrence Trust who have been doing this and not getting paid for it.
“What’s different here is, for the first time, we’ve got a pan-London strategic body, the mayoral office, with a pot of money and it’s sat there not being spent and I refuse to accept it’s because there are not people out there who can do it. There are people out there who can do it, this is because of the processes we’ve chosen.
She added: “This is a child; a young man’s life that we’re talking about.”
One of the biggest criticisms of the mayor’s scheme was that UEL was awarded the contract, despite a rival bidder – a consortium of longstanding black organisations – scoring higher in the selection process.
However, it was ruled out because it failed a financial due diligence test despite its bid being backed by well-established children’s charity Barnardos.
The consortium said it would take responsibility only for service delivery, while Barnardos would handle the finances, but was still unsuccessful in their bid.
Yet, it was one of UEL’s partners, London Action Trust, which went into administration days after the deal was finalised.
In a further twist, its trustees included two mayoral advisors.
As a result, Joanne McCartney, GLA member for Enfield and Haringey, asked for a more transparent process in the next round of funding bids.
She pointed to organisations like London Councils and the Art Council which publish a list of all bids, including their names and the amounts being requested.