If you were in the TimeBank offices last week you would have heard a sudden declaration of: "We got APS!"
A statement that may initially cause bafflement begins to make sense when associated with the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation Approved Provider Standard or APS for short.
APS is the national quality standard specifically designed for mentoring and befriending projects. It consists of 12 elements which focus on the key management and operational areas that underpin the effectiveness of any mentoring or befriending project. In order to achieve APS, projects are required to demonstrate that they meet the requirements of each element.
And this is exactly what we achieved at TimeBank with our mental health project The Switch. Starting life in April 2012, The Switch matches young people aged 16-18 who are leaving Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services with volunteer mentors who help build their self-esteem and confidence by spending time with them, doing everyday things like going for coffee, enjoying a hobby or preparing to get a job.
The Switch has followed the footsteps of other TimeBank mental health mentoring projects, such as Back to Life - which was awarded APS back in 2010 – by receiving this important recognition as a high quality mentoring project.
The road to achieving APS has been long and we have faced challenges, as well as triumphs. As one of the many practitioners supporting vulnerable people, I understand the emotional toil it can take. You share in the achievements and growths of your participants and volunteers, which also means you share in their lows and setbacks.
I therefore strongly believe that applying for awards and accreditations such as APS is not only important for raising the profile of the project, encouraging further funding and identifying areas for development, it’s also a terrific confidence boost for everyone involved in the project.
The final APS report states that, “The Switch project has demonstrated its ability to deliver a high quality project through the development and use of effective systems and processes alongside the hard work of its staff, volunteers and service users.”
The project was particularly praised for its impact on its mentors and the young people they supported. “The mentors reported that by taking part in the project they have gained personal satisfaction by helping others who need it, developed patience and confidence. One of the volunteers described feeling proud when their mentee went to college.”
Young people who took part in The Switch said they were “gaining confidence in going out”; that the mentoring “made me feel alive and happy” and “made me feel like I have my life back again.”
At TimeBank we are ecstatic to start the Christmas holidays with such good news and would encourage other mentoring and befriending organisations to look into gaining this formal recognition. For more information take a look at the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation website. It also runs FREE APS briefing events across the country, which are great way to find out more and ask specific questions.