Grandmentors is an eye-catching ‘big society’ idea, but its funding looks fragile

It was difficult to miss the launch yesterday of Grandmentors. The 3-year pilot project aims to match what the press release from CSV calls “troubled teenagers” from deprived parts of London with grandparent-style volunteer mentors.

Grandmentors cropped up on the Today programme, in the Daily Telegraph – ‘granny knows best’ – and in The Times – highly unusual for a tiny test-bed volunteering scheme of 60 placements. But it’s not difficult to see why the media was interested: Grandmentors is a simple, practical idea that’s easy to understand. It’s significant because it’s the first concrete example of the ‘big society’ in action for all those confused voters on doorsteps. Grandmentors is the abstract made real.

But there’s a catch: the project is funded solely by the JECDA Foundation, the family charity of Conservative peer Lord Freud, with a one-off donation of £200,000. When that runs out, fresh funding must be found to keep it going.

Could Grandmentors’ fragile funding be a predictor of that of other ‘big society’ projects? It looks possible, and it’s cause for concern.