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.
An independent visitor can be life changing for a young person in care, being a consistent and supportive person in their life, helping them learn to trust, have fun and grow.
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. Independent visitors meet regularly with a young person to do activities together, talk, be supportive and have fun. This might be a trip to the cinema or bowling, a day out in London or just a coffee and a chat.
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 or help a young person learn about their own or other people's culture. All the activities will be what the young person wants to do. These will be agreed with the independent visitor and their carers. This gives them the chance to have fun and make their own choices.
How often do I visit and how long does a visit last?
Independent visitors meet their young person every two-three weeks for a few hours. Building a relationship can take time, but being committed and patient works! The early meetings will probably be relatively short, maybe only for an hour or two at first. Generally, the amount of time spent and frequency of visits are decided by the young person and you, with support and agreement from us.
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. Some young people are placed a long way out of Croydon (e.g. Kent or Sussex) which can be isolating. For these young people, it can make a huge difference for a volunteer to be prepared to travel out to see them.
How long am I expected to volunteer?
We ask for volunteers to commit to a young person for a minimum of 18 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 and beyond. At other times, the relationship comes to a natural end as the young person grows older, or the circumstances of the volunteer or young person 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: children's rights, safeguarding children, the role of an independent visitor, communication, confidentiality, children's services procedures, issues facing looked after children, and managing children's behaviour. See independent visitor training.
Who can become an independent visitor?
Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are welcome. We are particularly keen to recruit male volunteers and people from BAME communities. You do not need any specific qualifications, experience or background 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 children's services records and carry out an enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring) check. These checks are carried out to ensure the safeguarding of young people and volunteers.
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. Most of the young people independent visitors may work with are in foster care, or semi independent living, although some are in residential care settings.
What help and support will I receive?
All independent visitors have regular one to one and group support including reviews of the volunteer role. Once matched, you will be assigned a volunteer co-ordinator who will support you with any questions or concerns you may have on an ongoing basis. We will also support you to access further training to help in your IV 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 one of the independent visitor co-ordinators via the details given below.
4th Floor, Zone F
Bernard Weatherill House,
8 Mint Walk
Croydon, CR0 1EA