A CHARITY which strives to help vulnerable children thrive is inviting companies to help them support York’s next generation of employees.

The Island Business Hub, launched this week to coincide with its 11th birthday, is open to businesses which want to play a part in supporting their community.

The Island, in Priory Street, York, helps to build up the confidence, self-esteem and resilience of children and young people, through mentoring relationships and supportive programmes.

Ellen Cole, who does marketing for the charity and helped set up the Hub, said business members would be invited to visit The Island and see its work and the difference it is making. They will pay an annual fee of £175 (discounted for three-year memberships), and receive support with fundraising, and an invitation to networking events. Their logo will also feature on the charity's web page with a link to their own website.

The fees will help pay for activity sessions young people do with their mentors, such as swimming, rock-climbing and cinema trips.

The Island currently supports around 200 young people, but only 45 to 50 have one-to-one mentoring. The rest attend ‘youth clubs’ at The Island while they wait to get a mentor.

Nigel Poulton, mentoring services manager, hopes the Hub will raise awareness of their work and, more significantly, lead businesses to want to be more involved.

“There are literally thousands of young people who would benefit from a mentor in their life. Talking with head teachers, they have so many young people they have concerns about and the pastoral care is taking up more and more time. Once we have that relationship with a business it is how creatively we can partner together.”

Options could include a business fundraising; collecting and distributing donated food to low-income families; enabling employees to volunteer time; or offering work placements.

“Time for all of us is a challenge,” he said. “Some of the options are not time-consuming. People don’t need to give half a day; an hour can make a huge and life-changing difference for that young person. And as they grow up and gain confidence, these young people will be future employees, so companies have a vested interested.”

Nigel said Barclays Bank had invited young people into their Parliament Street branch to help with their CVs and do mock job interviews.

“This was a pilot for Barclays; we hope to repeat that so every young person has that opportunity.”

Ellen who said they had already had a good response to the Hub explained that children were referred for reasons such as bullying and low self-esteem, but they were starting to see more with mental health issues.

“We are seeing, particularly boys, struggling with their emotional well-being. There have been occasions of children with suicidal thoughts.

“We found, through mentoring and through play, it is one of the best ways we can get children to open up. It helps them to relax and trust and build that relationship so they will discuss their problems. The mentors are trained to help with children’s confidence, self-esteem and resilience.

“We found a lot of children, before they come to us, have quite a negative perception of themselves and a lack of self-confidence and we found the mentoring gives them something to look forward to and helps them think more positively about themselves.”

Ellen said people who had had a mentor in the past had got in touch years later to say how it had helped them.

“We have heard from some who are now business owners in the city of York. They have praised us and said that without the service giving them positive feelings of self-worth they wouldn’t have got to where they are now. We also have quite a few at university.”

Once volunteers start mentoring young people, they do one activity a week which usually costs about £15, to cover the cost of transport and the activity.

Activities could be rock climbing or eating out, while some young people want to learn a new skill.

“It is about responding to what would help them gain their confidence and build up their resilience,” said Nigel

To find out more about the Business Hub visit www.theislandyork.org/the-business-hub or email fundraising@theislandyork.org for an application form.