Leeds City Council’s ‘Independent Visitor’ scheme offers young people in care an older role model. Volunteers offer few hours of their time each month, taking part in activities such as football, go-karting, or a trip to the cinema. They get to see a young person develop, grow in confidence and have fun, away from the day to day challenges of their life.
In today’s blog we hear from Rob Hillion, one of the scheme’s volunteers, who tells us why he thinks more people should get involved…
“The Independent Visitors Scheme is a chance to be paired up with a young person in care. You’re not there as a professional but more of a mate with duty of care, if that makes sense. Basically, you take the young person out once a month for an afternoon.
“You don’t get all that person’s background history because what sort of friendship starts on that basis? You’re also not there to probe that young person about their experiences because, again, that’s probably not the right way to strike up a lasting friendship. You’re there to be a mate, to have a laugh but if something does come up that needs professional intervention then you need to be prepared to speak with the Independent Visitors Team. They’ll be able to get that young person the support that they need.
“As long as you’re open and honest with the young person and you’ve explained why you may have to pass information on, then it doesn’t need to damage your relationship.
“My match and I have been paired for about a year and a half now. We met in his foster mum’s front room; he showed me his remote controlled helicopter and how he could run up walls. To be honest, I was impressed and thought about how I’d probably made a really good decision in joining the Independent Visitors Scheme.
“I hadn’t always felt so confident about it though and I’m sure that a lot of people probably feel the same, wondering – ‘ What do you do? Will I have proper training? What if we don’t get on?’ I think these are all typical worries and they are to be expected when you’re taking on something new.
“This is where the Independent Visitors Team come into their own. You’ll be given comprehensive training that covers all aspects of your role and what is expected of you. It’s an informal environment and people are encouraged to work together to gain a greater understanding of the service. The team then offer ongoing support throughout your match and they’re only on the end of the phone.
“I feel really blessed to have become involved with the Independent Visitors Scheme and I want to champion it. You get to hang out with some truly inspirational young people, become part of the fabric of their lives and play some proper good Laser Quest too. I was with my match the other day and as we were under enemy fire he turned to me and said “How old are you again?” I shouted back “I’m 32 Sarge!”. He thought about it for a second and said “Isn’t it mad that a 13 year old and a 32 year old can be such good mates”. I smiled and went back to protecting our lazer quest base… well I couldn’t let him see a tear in my eye could I?!
“It has been a blast and although at times it can be challenging it is these little moments that make it all worthwhile. And this is what I’m there for, I’m not another professional asking him questions. All I need to know is that he is having a good time. If he wants to speak with me then I’m there for him but it is on his terms.
“One day a month for a couple of hours to have some proper fun isn’t a hardship and you get to make a real difference. It’s not really a case of when you should sign up but more a case of why you haven’t signed up already. I’ll see you at the next Independent Visitors get together.”
A big thanks to Rob for sharing why he thinks the scheme is so important!
You can find more information about the Independent Visitor scheme, and an application form for signing-up at: http://www.leeds.gov.uk/residents/Pages/Leeds-independent-visitors-scheme.aspx , you can also give the team a call on: 0113 395 1255, if you have any questions.