Good practice - SIVA - Social Mentoring

Sociālās integrācijas valsts aģentūra (SIVA), Latvia “Social Mentoring”

Summary information on the organisation

The Latvian Social Integration State Agency (SIVA) was set up in 1991. It currently employs nearly 300 staff members working with clients in vocational rehabilitation, i.e., persons with disabilities or mental impairments, with persons at the risk of getting disability and persons with disabilities who are long-term unemployed. SIVA’s mission is to deliver timely, targeted, and high-quality social and vocational rehabilitation services, promoting the client's ability to work and independence. SIVA provides social and vocational rehabilitation and coordinates the State financed long-term social care and social rehabilitation services. SIVA has another thematic focus on vocational rehabilitation with the aim to help the service users to get involved in social life and integrated into the labour market.

Summary information about the programme

Knowing about the importance of keeping up motivation for people with disability in the course of the study and training process in general and in order to allow for a remote teaching and studying during 2020 and 2021, SIVA decided to create a mentoring programme for their students.

The idea is to allocate all students to a specialist, such as social worker, psychologist, teacher, career specialist, who then works as a mentor for her/his students. Each day during the remote learning situation, mentors were contacting their students to ask about their wellbeing, progress in study process, problems and other issues appearing. This was done to give additional praise, to agree on the tasks to be done (such as cooking healthy food, going for a walk, focusing on hobbies, etc.) and to stay in contact. Staying in touch is even more important for people with different psychiatric and mental health problems.

 The contact between students and mentors was mostly ensured via email, phone calls and WhatsApp. Students could be given additional homework (such as filling in different worksheets) in order to maintain their curiosity and logical thinking, to train their math skills, etc. Students were asked to give feedback and to send pictures of the tasks fulfilled, e.g., making dinner, thematically decorating their apartment, or focusing on their leisure activities.

As a result, the clients of vocational rehabilitation services felt that they were taken care of, they didn’t lose motivation to get back to study in a face-to-face setup when it was possible, they received attention and they could communicate with their trusted person which was so needed during confusing and uncertain “stay-at-home” period. The clients were reminded of the advantages of keeping up motivation for people with disability during the study and training process in general and in particular in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic where teaching and studying needed to be organised in a remote/online setup from spring 2020.