A study commissioned by the Youth Justice Board has claimed that mentoring schemes fail to make a positive difference to the lives of vulnerable children.
The results of the research, by Professor Ian St James Roberts of the Thomas Coram Unit at the University of London, are "more than slightly disheartening", he admits in the report.
"Our failure to find evidence of improvements in behaviour, literacy and numeracy raises doubts as to whether mentoring makes a significant, lasting difference," he adds.
Melvyn Davies, project manager of the Coram Family's boys2MEN mentoring scheme, said the report highlighted the failings of many traditional mentoring programmes.
"Mentoring needs to be seen as part of a package of support," he said.
"Providing a mentor whose only focus is to improve your maths and English or prevent you from offending is missing the point of mentoring. The mentor must first understand the reasons behind the behaviour before he seeks to change it."