Successful befriending scheme for children in care set to expand

Applications to become an Independent Visitor volunteer are now open


Released: 14 August 2019

“She was the big sister I never had.”

“She’s been there for me since day one, through everything.”

“It’s fun and exciting. Having an Independent Visitor is one advantage of being in care.”

The voices of just some of the children in care in West Sussex speaking about the benefits of having an Independent Visitor.

The hugely successful befriending scheme, run by West Sussex County Council, is again looking for volunteers to help it expand. Currently around 70 adults volunteer as Independent Visitors, pairing up with a young person aged between eight and 18 to spend time together.

Harvey Monaghan, 50, from Bognor Regis has been meeting up with a young person for the last 14 months. Harvey said: “I’m really lucky because we’re very like-minded, the young person I’m with is very outgoing and active.

“Every month or six weeks we meet up and we’ve done everything from cycling and badminton to climbing. I think the fact that we are choosing to spend our time with a young person really means a lot to them and we’ve become really good friends.”

Harvey says being reliable and having a positive outlook are essential qualities for those considering joining the Independent Visitor scheme.

“I really enjoy it, it’s incredibly rewarding trying to be a positive role model for someone who might have had a difficult start”, Harvey added.

Applications are now open and anyone interested can come along to one of two information evenings being held at Crawley Library on 4 September 2019 or Centenary House, Worthing on 13 November, both 5.30pm for a 6pm start.

Some Independent Visitors will be there along with staff to answer any questions on volunteering, training and the assessment process.

At 23, Paige Manvell is one of the youngest Independent Visitors in West Sussex. Paige, a school teaching assistant from Worthing, said: “It’s quite special being with a child who needs that solid person they can rely on. It’s become just like having another friend to go out for dinner with, go bowling or trampolining or just have a catch up with.”

“It doesn’t take a lot to give up a couple of hours of your time and I can tell it makes such a difference. I can’t recommend it enough and I think it’s also helped me not to take things for granted in life.”

Activities are very much child-led and are often quality time spent simply walking, shopping or going for a coffee together. One child in care asked her IV to listen to her reading to help her for school.

Paul Marshall, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, added: “Our fantastic volunteers make such a difference to the lives of the children they are matched with. It is so worthwhile and we now need more people who enjoy spending time with a young person to help us grow the hugely successful scheme further.”

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