Volunteering to help, befriend and support children
What is an independent visitor?
Independent visitors are volunteers who befriend and support children and young people aged up to 18 who are looked after by the local authority. All looked after children should, by law, be offered the chance to have an independent visitor.
What is the role of an independent visitor?
Independent visitors take an active interest in the lives, hopes and concerns of young people and are there to listen and help. Volunteers can make a real difference to a young person by sharing a hobby, sport or interest. They can help with school or college work and going on outings, such as going to the cinema, to the park or bowling. What's most important is that the activities are what the young person wants to do and that the foster carer, social worker and independent visitor volunteer co-ordinator knows about and agrees with the activities that you do together.
How often do I visit and how long does a visit last?
We encourage you to meet the young person fortnightly. It will take time to build up a good relationship. The early meetings will probably be relatively short, maybe only for an hour at first. Generally the amount of time spent and frequency of the visits are decided by the young person and you, with support and agreement from us. It will vary according to the circumstances and interests of the young person.
Are independent visitors matched with young people who live locally?
This depends how far you are willing to travel and where you live. We will take your needs and views into account when matching you to the child or young person.
How long am I expected to volunteer?
We ask for volunteers to commit to a young person for a minimum of 12 months. Most volunteers develop a good relationship with the young person they are matched with. In some cases volunteers have carried on visiting a young person for many years and their relationship has continued until the young person leaves the care system.
At other times, the relationship comes to a natural end as the young person grows older, or in some cases the personal circumstances of the volunteer may change.
Will I need training?
Yes. You will need to complete the independent visitor training before being approved as a volunteer. The training includes sessions on such topics as: volunteering, children's rights, child protection, the role of an independent visitor, communication, confidentiality, social service procedures, issues facing looked after children, and handling children's behaviour. See independent visitor training for details of times and venues.
Who can become an independent visitor?
Volunteers of all backgrounds are welcome. We are particularly keen to recruit male volunteers and people from ethnic minority communities.
You do not need any specific qualifications, experience or lifestyle to be an independent visitor. You do need to be able to demonstrate to us that you have the aptitude and personal qualities to relate appropriately to a young person and offer them support as an independent visitor.
Do you check volunteers?
To make sure all of the volunteers we recruit are safe and suitable for the role, volunteers must undergo a clear and comprehensive selection process involving interviews, reference checks, training and a panel interview. We will examine social services records and carry out an enhanced Criminal Record Bureau check. The protection of children is our paramount concern.
What are the young people waiting for independent visitors like?
Some young people will be outgoing and easy to get along with and others may take more time to get to know as they may be shy or nervous. Some young people will be active and energetic while others may be calm or more laid back. Some children may have emotional problems or difficulties with school or college work. Many have wonderful skills and talents.
All young people waiting for an independent visitor are looked after by the local authority. They will be facing difficulties and situations which may be hard for us to comprehend. This means you will need to be respectful, caring, patient, encouraging and understanding.
What help and support will I receive?
All independent visitors have regular one to one and group support including reviews of the volunteer role.
Are independent visitors reimbursed for expenses?
We pay volunteers allowances for agreed activities and transport costs. No volunteer should be out of pocket for anything they do as part of their role as an independent visitor.
What do I do next?
Please complete the online form.
If you would like further information, please contact Jane Pugh via the details given below.
|Job title||Independent Visitor Volunteer Co-ordinator|
|Department||Children's Quality Assurance and Safeguarding Service|
|Telephone||020 8726 6000 ext 63243|
|Address||Children's Quality Assurance and Safeguarding Service|
69-77 Robert Street