A befriender, or independent visitor, is an adult volunteer who befriends and supports a young person in care who has little or no contact with his/her family.
What is the purpose and why are Befrienders needed?
There are many aspects to this role. In addition to being a truly ‘independent’ contact outside the care system, the befriender gives continuity, something not always possible with changing carers and social workers. This enables the young person to develop social skills and the ability to work at long term relationships, so vital if they are to have a loving, stable adult life. It is also helps build their self-esteem, giving them confidence to try new hobbies, to take on board new ideas and to learn from other people’s more settled lives.
What does a Befriender do?
Every young person has different needs but are matched so that they have something in common with the befriender, perhaps a hobby you enjoy. This allows a friendship with shared common interests to develop and become trusting. You may want to do activities together such as the cinema, visit the library, bowling, swimming, walking the dog or just having a cuppa and a chat. It would be similar to the sort of relationship you may have with nieces, nephews or grandchildren.
What sort of young people do we help?
The young people will be as varied as the befrienders and can be in care for a variety of reasons including the loss of one or both parents, abuse, neglect or special needs. The one thing they all have in common would be that they have had an unsettled childhood and need continuity as well as the need to feel valued. This is why we ask for a minimum 2 year commitment.
How much time do I need to give and when will I be required?
The minimum requirement is a weekly phone call, letter or text plus two outings per month, generally at weekends or in the early evening but always at a convenient time for yourself and the young person. We ask for a minimum 2 year commitment.
How much will it cost me?
Nothing, other than your time. All authorised expenses are reimbursed including travel. Use of a car is beneficial.
How will I know what and what not to do?
Full training is provided, totaling 12 – 15 hours spread over 2 induction sessions held on consecutive Saturdays. There is a short monthly diary form and expenses claim to fill in, and regular meetings to review progress. All volunteers have a copy of our handbook.
What if I don’t get on with the young person or one of us has to move?
Don’t worry: this rarely happens. There is a careful matching process that takes account of your own preferences and wishes as well as those of the young person. If it really doesn’t work out on either side, we would organise a new arrangement. If either the independent visitor or the young person moves away from the area, the formal befriending arrangement would end – but you could always stay in touch by letter, phone or email, if you both wanted to. If you were still within reasonable travelling distance, we would explore how the arrangement might continue.
Do I get to meet other Befrienders?
Yes. You will get to meet other new volunteers on your training and we also arrange informal social gatherings where volunteers can meet and share their experiences.