Defying the risks of disadvantage

photography of women talking to each other

Photo by Christina Morillo on


By Rachael Mulcare

In support of International Volunteer Day I would like to share my experiences of working as a mentor with the Social Mobility Foundation. Growing up in a single parent family in inner-city Birmingham, I am familiar with the challenges of social disadvantage and deprivation for people from low income backgrounds. The literature on the outcomes for children and young people from these backgrounds shows that they often underachieve in school and that this is a risk factor for poorer outcomes in adulthood. My own journey through the education system and that of others I know from similar backgrounds, is that we have been able to “defy” the risks associated with having low income.

My reflections on my experience suggest that it is important to support the development and opportunities of young people who do have high aspirations. They may then inspire others from their community. As an aspiring educational psychologist, I think it important for professionals to support all vulnerable groups of children and young people to achieve their full potential.

I first became aware of the Social Mobility Foundation’s mentoring scheme from an email sent to me when I was working at a Children’s Hospital. The email encouraged staff from different disciplines to sign up to mentor a young person. The Foundation provides opportunities for high achieving young people from low income backgrounds to have a mentor in their chosen career field.

I had never heard of this programme, but I was keen to be a part of it. Knowing the difficulties I had experienced finding a job in the field of psychology after university and having no personal or professional links with practitioners, I thought the scheme would be an amazing opportunity for me to help a young person in a similar position. Educational psychology and applied psychology in general can seem something of a secret society for people outside the profession and it can be difficult to gain knowledge about the roles. I remember all too well the endless phone calls, emails and messages left to try and find out how to “get in”.

Working with the Social Mobility Foundation, I felt that I could offer information to a young person so that they would be well equipped following graduation. The scheme is very flexible and it can be email contact with your mentee or you can arrange to meet up through the Foundation. All mentors are required to have an up to date DBS and the emails go through the Foundation’s system to safeguard the young person.

In my experience, the young people have wanted to know about my career path, what I studied and some information about applying to university. One mentee asked for support with writing her UCAS personal statement. Following our session on anti-oppressive practice on our training course, which highlighted the inequalities in our society and how they can adversely affect life chances, other trainees in my group have signed up to the scheme and they are now also mentoring local young people.

For more information about Social Mobility Foundation please visit their website. They will soon be recruiting for the next wave of mentors and I can honestly say that it is a role that is incredibly rewarding.

Rachael is a Year 1 trainee on the initial training course at the University of Birmingham.

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