It started with the director of children’s services for Leeds city council saying in a meeting that only 10% of looked after children had an independent visitor. I had no idea what one of those was!
So one day I Googled it and discovered that there was a Leeds City Council scheme. An independent visitor is a volunteer who befriends and visits a child or young person living in the care of the local authority. They visit a young person around once a month with the aim of establishing a positive adult-child relationship. There is a focus on helping a young person develop their own interests and introducing them to new experiences that they haven’t done before.
I emailed for details. It took me a little while to decide if I wanted to put myself forward and apply to do this, it was clearly a rigorous selection process and a serious commitment if approved. Nevertheless, although I spend all my working week in children’s services and most of my working life with and for children, it’s rare now that I spend real quality time with them. So, I decided to give it a go and complete the application from. A quick interview, two full Saturday’s training and then a further interview, an enhanced DBS check and then hurrah I was approved as an independent visitor!
Time passed as a match was made and then it happened. I got a call to say that they had a young person interested in me being their independent visitor. We met, we got on and the deal was done! I now have a fantastic young person. He is a star! We love going out together, nowhere exotic, just Yeadon Tarn, watching the planes come in and out at LBA, Kirkstall Abbey, climbing on the rocks, sitting outside and having cake and hot chocolate! I am not sure who has the most fun!
At this stage it is about four hours once a month, so it’s not a huge time commitment. Nevertheless, the rewards are great! We have a book and each visit my young man writes in what we have done. His entries include, “today I had my first cupcake” and “I think I am in heaven”. He loves sticking pictures of our last visit in his book and collecting feathers to remind him of what we have done.
I commend this to anyone who has the time and the energy to make a little bit of a difference to a young person’s life… And the rewards? Immense!
by: Anne Kearsley
Would you like more information, or think you could be an independent visitor? Start with the Leeds city council website where you can find more information and details of who to contact.