Volunteer Befrienders

Befriending is the incredibly rewarding role of an Independent Visitor that involves visiting, advising and befriending a young person in care, taking a long term interest in their well-being and development.

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What Is A Befriender?

In the Children Act 1989, the official term for a befriender is defined as an Independent Visitor. Young people may experience multiple changes of placement, carer and social worker during their time in care. Often our volunteer Independent Visitor is the only consistent adult in the young person’s lives.

An Independent Visitor is a reliable adult who invests time into developing a long-term friendship with a young person in care.

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Why Do Young People Need A Friend Like You?

Most young people have large extended families, who look out for each other. Children in care often do not, so the role of an Independent Visitor is to be that trusted uncle or aunt, there as someone to talk to, someone to share their hopes, fears and worries with.

Children in care often move around the care system, with lots of different foster homes, so they lose contact with adults in their lives all too often, and need someone consistent, like a friend, who is there to help them for the long term.

What Do Befrienders Do?

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As a Befriender you will:

commit to volunteer for a minimum of two years

meet with your young person once a month

be carefully matched with young people with similar interests

take time to give advice, assist with problems and empower your young person to problem solve

share in a wide range of activities and outings

be able to attend professional meetings at the young person’s request

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You will help by:

being someone trusted to talk to

problem solving together or supporting choices the young person makes

helping them feel less lonely or isolated

supporting them to make friends of their age or engage in activities in their community

sharing in hobbies and interests

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What Support and Training is There?

You will be warmly welcomed into the YLF team who truly value you and your time.

YLF delivers a thorough training course to all applicants to ensure you are fully equipped. YLF will provide:

  • training focused on core skills, safeguarding and role specifics
  • supervision to ensure that your skills are always to maximum impact
  • an open door policy with the invitation to visit us at our hubs at any time
  • invitations to social events so all volunteers have the chance to meet and share experiences
  • opportunities to support our charity in other ways such as participation in fundraising events
  • support towards additional training or courses to develop your skills or careers

And lastly you won’t be out of pocket. YLF reimburses all authorised expenses including mileage.

Meet The Befriending Team

Lucy

Befriending Coordinator Medway

Frank

Befriending Coordinator Kent

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Am I Suitable to Volunteer?

With a commitment of at least two years to the role and a genuine passion for improving the lives of young people and families, you are already suitable!

We require someone who can be a positive role model for young people, a champion of their needs, interests and aspirations and someone who can listen and offer encouragement.

There are some FAQ’s at the bottom of this page to help you further, or just call us to discuss any concerns you have.

What People Say

“My foster daughter has a wonderful independent visitor, who really has been a positive influence as well as a good friend to her. It is lovely for my girl to be able to choose various activities to do, often things I am not keen on like trampolining and ice skating!” foster carer

“Following her turning 18 we have remained in contact. She applied for a job at the school where I work at which she was a student. She now works here and we see each other daily.

I am currently helping her with university applications and interviews. She has an offer to study social work at Canterbury Christchurch uni. She tends to rely on me for help and advice in big things such as this.

I believe she is flourishing and getting more confident. I’m so proud.” Sandra, volunteer IV

“He gives me time when I can go out and do things I don’t normally do. He’s like an older version of me because we think the same way. He’s kind and funny and understands my jokes. If I didn’t see him I’d be sad.” Taylor, young person

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a befriender

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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?

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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. It 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?

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Every young person has different needs but is matched so that they have something in common with the befriender, perhaps a shared hobby. This allows a friendship with 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?

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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 is 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 two year commitment.

How much time do I need to give and how often will I be required?

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The minimum requirement is one visit 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 two year commitment.

How much will it cost me?

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Nothing, other than your time. All authorised expenses are reimbursed including travel.

How do you match me with a young person and what is the process?

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We discuss with all volunteers during their accreditation interview any preferences they may have regarding a young person. We also take into consideration your hobbies and interests, geography and the young person’s wishes as well.

What if I don't get on with the young person or one of us has to move?

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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.

What if I need help?

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The Independent Visitors handbook provides you with a vast amount of information and is a useful tool and point of reference for all our active volunteers. The content covers the role of an IV, policies and procedure, YLF safeguarding policy, as well as useful information about how to carry out your role productively.

All volunteers receive formal supervision after their first three months, then 6 monthly then, annual. We also offer informal support via phone and email on a regular basis.

Do I need to have a DBS check or any other references or background checks?

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All volunteers are required to complete an enhanced DBS form; we also seek a reference from your current employer and two others (whom you have known for over 5 years).

How do I apply?

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You would need to complete and return an application, safeguarding and data protection form (there is also an optional equal opportunities form).

You can apply directly online here, or download these forms from our Resources page and send them by:

Email | volunteering@ylf.org.uk

Post | YLF Volunteering, 71 College Road, Maidstone, Kent ME15 6SX

If you require hard copies, they are available upon request.

What Next?

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Apply to Volunteer

Apply online now to become an Independent Visitor

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Get an Info Pack

Read more about the role in our downloadable information pack

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Other Opportunities

Head back to the main volunteer page to check out the other roles