KRISTAL Flanders achieved one of her life-long ambitions last week, gaining her P Plates.
The 19 year-old from Leongatha was very excited to successfully sit the driving test, but it may not have possible had it not been for the support of her mentors.
Kristal joined the South Gippsland L2P program in January 2014 and completed her 120 hours of driving practice with two mentors, including Robert Davey.
Kristal is one of 179 young people the L2P program has assisted since 2011.
L2P aims to overcome the challenges faced by disadvantaged young people by matching trained community volunteers with young learner drivers who would otherwise have difficulty getting enough supervised on-road driving practice during their learning period.
The program involves a team, consisting of the young learner driver and a community volunteer utilising a program vehicle, a red hatch back in South Gippsland’s case, to undertake supervised driving sessions, in much the same way as parents/carers would to get the required 120 hours.
The driving is undertaken in stages with graduation through each stage being supported by lessons with a professional driving instructor.
The volunteer is not a teacher/instructor, but as a supervisor for driving practice, to be supportive of the learner driver, act as a positive role model and encourage the young person to reach their potential through coaching.
There are 28 volunteer mentors working with a number of young people and more are needed.
“We’ve got 28 on the books and all of them are active,” L2P Program officer John Ernst said.
“The problem is, about a quarter of those are ‘grey nomads’ so travel up north to get out of the cold during winter.
“What we’d really like to see are more volunteers who are still working.
“Some workplaces have volunteer provisions and we’d really encourage employers who have people interested in volunteering to contact us.
“It could work out in their favour as you’ll get safer drivers as a result.”
Volunteers are all trained and support is given to the driver and supervisor to check the matched relationship.
Mr Ernst said drivers and supervisors often form strong friendships during the 120 hours of driving.
“We are finding as an outcome, that not only are these young people getting their licences, but they’re also developing a relationship with and adult that cares about them.
“This wasn’t part of our program, but it has developed in that way, which is great because as we well know, services for young people can be very hard to come by in rural areas.
“Three-quarters of the young people coming in to enquire and start on the program are self-referrals, which shows they don’t see the program as being part of welfare.
“Of course, not all kids will get their licence. Unfortunately that’s the nature of homelessness, they’ll go where the housing, jobs and support is, but we’ve provided referrals on to other L2P programs so they can keep going with their hours and for many, that leads to jobs.
“Our job is to make sure they’re ready to drive.
“The driving school provides the skills training, the shire provides the car [fully funded], the mentor provides the practice.”
The shire has two cars available, which are garaged at Leongatha and Foster. Access to council’s other fleet vehicles is also available if required.
The L2P Program is fully funded through the TAC.
For more information about volunteering with the L2P Program, contact John Ernst on 5662 9367, 0409 836 515 or email johne@southgippsland.vic.gov.au.


Who is eligible for L2P?

THE L2P Program is aimed at young people aged 16 to 21 years who have their Learner Permit and face significant barriers or disadvantage that may prohibit them from obtaining their Probationary drivers licence without community support.
This could mean they have no access to a vehicle or supervisor driver.
There is no cost to the learner driver or mentor to be involved in the L2P Program. All costs and insurance is covered by South Gippsland Shire Council (through TAC funding).
Learner drivers are to complete a number of professional driving lessons with a qualified instructor.
Once certified as competent, a learner driver will be matched with a mentor for on road driving practice at mutually agreed upon times and days.

Who can be a mentor?
SINCE starting at the beginning of 2011, the L2P program has assisted 179 young people with over 4200 hours contributed by community volunteers as a direct investment in the communities’ young people.
The L2P program works with the local driving schools who provide the skills training with the mentors providing the bulk of the hours practicing these skills with their learners.
The driving schools have provided over 450 hours of professional instruction.
All driving mentors must hold a full Victorian driver’s licence.
L2P Program requires that driving mentors undertake a number of screening checks as part of the selection process, such as a Working with Children Check and National Police Check.
A comprehensive training course is provided to prepare you for your role as a driving mentor.
Contact between the L2P Program officers is ongoing to provide supervision and support.
A car is provided.

Still want help supervising?
PERHAPS you are a nervous supervising teacher?
Perhaps you don’t know where to start now your teenager has their L Plates?
Perhaps you’re worried your bad driving habits will be mimicked by your Learner?
If your child doesn’t fit the criteria for being enrolled in the L2P Program, there are still options for making a stressful situation more bearable – for you and your Learner to get the 120 hours and become a competent driver.
South Gippsland Shire Council has recently received notification the L2P Program can be extended to help supervisor drivers.
Dates will be set shortly for some workshops to upskill adults to teach young drivers.
For more information, keep an eye on the Sentinel-Times, South Gippsland Shire Council’s noticeboard ad, or call John Ernst, L2P Program officer at council on 5662 9200.