The Independent Visitors Scheme, which provides independent advice, support and befriending to children looked after across the East Riding, is offering volunteers a chance to make a real difference to the lives of young people.
Volunteers are being sought to become an Independent Visitor, who gives up some of their spare time to befriend and visit a child or young person living in the care of the local authority.
Independent Visitors are separate from children’s social care and are carefully matched with a young person who enjoys similar activities. They usually meet with the young person once or twice a month; visits are a minimum of two hours.
This one-to-one relationship can involve anything from bowling, the cinema, shopping, cycling to kicking a football in the park. The Independent Visitor is a friend, mentor and/or advocate to the young person, depending on their individual needs.
Volunteers do not need any formal qualifications but they need to be able to relate well to young people and have a genuine interest in their welfare. They will require a Disclosure and Barring check, references and to complete the training.
Independent Visitors need to commit to visiting a child or young person for at least one to two years. In return, they receive ongoing training and support as well as agreed expenses.
The Independent Visitors Scheme is run by East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s children’s participation and rights team and volunteers come from all walks of life
One existing volunteer, Rebecca Johnson, said: “I volunteered for the Independent Visitors scheme in summer 2017. After a couple of evening training sessions I was paired with a young person in September. The participation and rights team are great and try their hardest to find the best match for the young people and the volunteers.
“I have had several meetings with my young person now. Each one has been different, but we always try to keep it fun! As an Independent Visitor you have the chance to have a positive impact on a child’s life. It’s incredibly rewarding, especially seeing them come out of their shell, and I’m looking forward to the next few years.”
Another volunteer, Julie Gibson, became an Independent Visitor two years ago after hearing about the scheme by chance.
She explained: “After contacting the participation and rights team and undergoing some really useful training I waited to be allocated a young person. A member of the team came to the first meeting, which really helped to start the conversation and we both decided that we’d like to go ahead.”
“I enjoy the variety. Sometimes we go shopping, or out for lunch or get our nails done. Whatever she wants to do really and that she is comfortable with. It took us a while to get to know each other and realise we both have a love of singing, which we usually do in the car! It’s been really rewarding to get to know a young person in care and I’ve been a constant in her life for two years now. It really doesn’t feel like volunteering as we just get together when we can and have a catch up. I would recommend being an Independent Visitor to anybody who has some time to spare.”
Councillor Julie Abraham, the council’s portfolio holder for children, young people and education, said: “ Independent Visitors can play a really important role in befriending a looked after child or young person , supporting and helping them by sharing activities, if necessary acting as an advocate, and most importantly, having fun!”
Anyone wanting more information about becoming an Independent Visitor can email the children’s participation and rights team, firstname.lastname@example.org or ring (01482) 565560 for an application pack.