Mentoring and Befriending Foundation: FAQs


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is mentoring and befriending?

Mentoring and befriending are increasingly popular concepts and projects exist all over the UK in a wide range of settings. They are very similar activities and generally are both seen as involving the development of one-to-one relationships based upon trust and confidentiality. The relationship is often voluntary and has the goal of providing practical assistance.   Involvement can be a very rewarding experience and is an opportunity to not only achieve and develop new skills but also to engage and put something back into the community. Read more about definitions of mentoring and befriending.

Q: What is the difference between mentoring and befriending?

The difference between these two forms of support is usually the emphasis placed on goals. Mentoring tends to have a stronger emphasis on goal-setting and time limited work and less on the development of a social relationship. Befriending aims to provide a supportive social relationship where none exists and has less emphasis on goal-setting.

Q: Where do you find mentoring and befriending schemes?

Schemes exist in a range of settings including schools and other educational establishments in support of young people who are at risk of exclusion from society and as part of voluntary and community schemes helping people to play a full part in their communities (perhaps refugees, disabled people, older people, lone parents) and in business and workplace settings to support professional and personal development. Read some examples of real life case studies.

Q: What is the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation?

The Mentoring and Befriending Foundation (MBF), formerly known as the National Mentoring Network or NMN, is the national strategic body for mentoring and befriending in England. We aim to encourage more organisations to use mentoring and befriending as part of their support strategies and offer advice and support to those who wish to set up or develop a scheme. MBF also plays a strategic role in promoting quality and standards in the sector and provides a forum for the exchange of information and good practice.  MBF works closely with government to promote the potential of mentoring and befriending to assist in addressing its priority areas and to contribute to the delivery of its social and economic policies. Our national office is based in Manchester and we also have Co-ordinators based in each of the nine Government regions. To find out how we can support you visit the meet the team page.

Q: How can I become a member of the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation?

To become a member of the mentoring and befriending community please contact the MBF office on 0161 787 8600 or email and ask for the membership team. Find out about the benefits of being a member on our  membership page.  

Q: What is the Approved Provider Standard (APS)?

The Approved Provider Standard is a quality standard which has been developed as a national benchmark for organisations providing one-to-one volunteer mentoring or befriending. It provides programmes with a badge of competence and underpins safe practice in mentoring and befriending. There is no charge for applying for APS and applications can be from organisations of any size. The process involves putting together a portfolio of documentary evidence. Learn more about how to apply for APS within the good practice area.

Q: What are the benefits of achieving APS?

Some of the main benefits of achieving the Approved Provider Standard are:
• your organisation will receive recognition for good practice,
• your programme will be entered onto a national database of approved providers,
• APS is an accepted benchmark by Government Departments and other funding bodies,
• certification and use of the ‘Approved Provider’ logo will help promote your programme,
• increased public confidence in your mentoring or befriending programme,
• helps to promote your programme to potential clients/volunteers,
• provides a health check of your programme and access to further guidance should you wish to make improvements. 

Q: Can I get support in setting up a new scheme?

Yes.  We have Regional Co-ordinators based in each of the nine government regions of England.  Their role is to promote and gather evidence of best practice, encourage adoption of MBF standards for projects and to support organisations in setting up new projects and to raise the profile of the work of practitioners through the regional areas of our website. We also produce a range of publications and other resources which can support you – take a look at our resources.

Q: Who makes a good mentor/befriender?

Mentors and befrienders range in age usually from 18 to 70+ (although in some cases they may be under 18), with a wide variety of life experiences and backgrounds. Sometimes people who have worked with a mentor or befriender and have experienced the benefits, go on to become mentors and befrienders themselves. A mentor or befriender may come from any walk of life and should be positive, reliable, a good listener, interested, approachable, non-judgemental and realistic.

Q: What does a mentor or befriender do?

Some of the key tasks of a mentor or befriender may include:
  • Get to know the client and let the client get to know them
  • Listen to the client and discuss anything that is worrying them
  • Value their opinions and beliefs
  • Encourage them to achieve their objectives
  • Talk about relevant experiences/problems they have overcome (if appropriate)
  • Encourage clients to talk and think about their ambitions and hopes for the future and plan the steps needed to get there
In particular, a mentor will work towards achieving positive change at a time of transition, through goal setting and motivation and a befriender will support the client to cope with life challenges through friendship and empathy.

Q: What is peer mentoring?

Peer mentoring is when people mentor someone of a similar age or experience to themselves. So in a school context, older pupils support younger ones by meeting regularly and passing on their experience and advice. Peer mentoring offers young people the opportunity to develop their skills and qualities in a way that will prove beneficial to them. In a non-educational setting, peer mentoring is a powerful tool for raising the self-esteem of young people in a range of settings including Youth Services, looked after young people, volunteer centres etc.  Have a look at our peer mentoring projects.

Q: How can I become a volunteer mentor or befriender?

Volunteer mentors and befrienders are recruited from a wide range of backgrounds and ages. In general you should be prepared to dedicate a certain amount of your free time and energy, show a lot of commitment and be a good listener. If you wish to be a volunteer mentor/befriender you can search through the national database of volunteering opportunities in the UK using the do-it database. Go to our want to become a volunteer? page to search.   

You could also contact your local Volunteer Centre as they hold information on volunteering opportunities in the area.  Find your nearest Centre on the Volunteering England website – click on ‘Volunteer Development Agencies’ across the top. 

Q: How do I find a mentor or befriender for myself?

There are two main ways to find a mentor or befriender for yourself or somebody you know.  Individuals can be referred through a relevant referral agency such as Connexions, Jobcentre plus, National Probation Service or through self-referral such as Age Concern, Rainer, Red Cross, The Prince’s Trust. 

See our want to find a mentor or befriender? page.

Q: What is a Learning Mentor?

A Learning Mentor is a paid mentor, mainly employed by primary or secondary schools, to provide support in raising pupils’ attainment, improving attendance and reducing exclusions and were originally funded through the ‘Excellence in Cities’ initiative.

Learning Mentors come from a wide range of backgrounds including volunteer mentoring, teaching, social services and youth work but all have experience of working with young people and with the ability to build a rapport with them.

More information at:

Recruitment for these posts is carried out at a local level with schools and local authorities who advertise posts in the local press and through their websites.  You can also contact your Local Authority and ask to be put through to their ‘Excellence in Cities’ programme or Learning Mentor Co-ordinator for more information.

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