Winchester’s job-seekers set to benefit from new mentoring service

Press Release: 10/03/2015

Leader of Winchester City Council, Cllr Frank Pearson and the Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Eileen Berry with volunteer mentors

A new service to help unemployed people to find work was officially launched on Monday 9 March by the new Leader of Winchester City Council, Cllr Frank Pearson, and the Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Eileen Berry.

Winchester City Council is working with the national charity Sova to provide its new employment mentoring service. It involves locally-recruited mentors providing practical and moral support for unemployed residents in the Winchester District.

During his welcoming speech Cllr Frank Pearson, Leader of Winchester City Council, said:

This service is perhaps a step outside the traditional role of a District Council, providing direct, one-to-one support for those unable to find work, no matter what their age, abilities or background.

I have always liked the slogan of Peter Symonds College in Winchester, which is ‘Counting in Ones’, and we had this in mind in developing our Mentoring Scheme. It is precisely because there is a small number of people out of work in Winchester that we are able to extend a helping hand to each individual job-seeker who wants to take it, and guide him or her along the pathway to employment.

The scheme is in place because Winchester City Council recognised that each individual has a different path and different challenges to face. These may be chaotic family lives or cultural pressures, the lack of essential skills and qualifications needed to progress, or low confidence or motivation.

Alex Solomon, Sova’s Project Manager, who is running the service in the Winchester District and trained all the volunteer mentors, offered some real-life case studies from mentors and service-users who have benefited from Sova mentoring programmes.

An unemployed person who wishes to remain anonymous said:

When I met my mentor she was lovely. She told me a bit about herself I told her a bit about myself. Straightaway she was willing to help. She encouraged me to express my feelings. For the first time I felt like I had a choice. She also had a choice too and had chosen to help me. She gave me the confidence to go to a drug support group. She helped with agencies for voluntary work, signing up for the library and using the internet. Sova made sure the volunteer was on my level. I would have been lost without this help and support of my mentor and would have been back to what I know: a life of drugs, crime and ultimately prison.

A volunteer mentor added:

It’s rewarding to work with clients in the community. I volunteer because I want to help break down the barriers which people face. It’s good to see progress made and help to build new skills. Clients begin with no confidence in themselves and you are able to help and to watch them grow.

The official launch took place at the Mayor’s official residence, Abbey House, and was attended by staff from Sova as well as referral agencies such as Job Centre Plus, the Probation Service, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the Council’s own housing team.

The Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Eileen Berry, presented the first cohort of volunteer mentors with their certificates to recognise the completion of their intensive training programme.

Sova’s Chief Operating Officer, Sophie Wilson, spoke to the audience of over 40 about the ‘Power of Mentoring’ and how volunteer mentors can make a real difference to the lives of Winchester’s unemployed.

If you would like help with finding work and you live within the Winchester District please contact Alex Solomon at asolomon@winchester.gov.uk or on 01962 848 396 or 07980 732 005. For further information about the employment mentoring service visit www.winchester.gov.uk/employmentmentoring