Independent visitor scheme
Independent visitors (IVs) are adult volunteers who provide independent, one-to-one befriending support to children in care. Their role is to "visit, advise and befriend" the young person with whom they are matched.
The 1989 Children Act made it a duty for Local Authorities to provide IVs for those young people living in care who have little or no contact from their parents or family. In 2008, the Children and Young Person's Act extended this duty so that any young person in care could be eligible to have an IV, if considered to be in their best interests.
A short animation has been made by care-experienced young people, explaining their right to have an independent visitor:
Benefits of an independent visitor for a young person in care
Young people in care can often experience disruption in their lives. An IV is a trusted adult from outside the care system who can offer consistent, long-term support throughout the time a young person is in care.
Young people are matched with IVs on the basis of their interests and needs. Once an IV is appointed, they can be expected to visit and spend quality time with the young person with whom they are matched, approximately once every three to four weeks. IV support can continue for as long as a young person receives care or care leaver support from Wiltshire Council.
Watch a video explaining what IVs are all about: YouTube: My Right Friend.
How young people in care can access the independent visitor service
If you are a young person in the care of Wiltshire Council, or you know someone placed in care by Wiltshire who might benefit from this service, please talk with the social worker who is involved. You can also get in touch with the scheme manager to find out more by emailing IVScheme@wiltshire.gov.uk.
How to volunteer as an independent visitor
If you are interested in volunteering and want to join our team of IVs, please email the scheme manager using IVScheme@wiltshire.gov.uk. You will be sent an information pack and registration form.
No formal qualifications are required to become an IV, although potential volunteers must meet the person specification and role description requirements for the role. All volunteers are carefully selected in line with safer recruitment policy and are required to obtain clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service.
If you are successful in being appointed as an IV, you will be joining a committed team of volunteers who have the opportunity to meet up together on a regular basis. You will also benefit from:
- the opportunity to develop new skills
- training and ongoing support
- the satisfaction of making a significant contribution to the lives of looked after young people
- mileage and out of pocket expenses
Hear what one of our volunteers has to say about being an IV: YouTube: Independent Visitor volunteer Q&A.
Further information about independent visitors
See our information leaflets for young people, volunteers, carers, and parents:
- information for young people [link to new page]
- information for volunteers [link to page]
- information for carers [link to page]
- information for parents [link to page]
Wiltshire IV scheme is a member of the National Independent Visitor Network (NIVN) which brings together all IV schemes in England and Wales. NIVN has its own website which is full of information and useful links: National Independent Visitor Network (ivnetwork.org.uk).
Wiltshire Council has signed up to the National Standards for the Provision of Independent Visitor Services (ivnetwork.org.uk).
Why I became an independent visitor
Personal stories from our volunteers
I've been an Independent Visitor now since 2015, after playing Rugby for many years I was looking for a new challenge and heard about the scheme through working for Wiltshire Council.
It was also more intriguing for me in that I'd been raised through the Care System in Wiltshire during the 60's & 70's, and I was keen to see how things were changing for young people in Care today.
My own 2 children had already grown and had families of their own, so being 'matched' with a young person of around 8 or 9 years old, was initially, slightly nervous for both of us, but his Foster Parents were very welcoming, and being able to feel at ease, both myself & my young person felt confident in being able to chat about basically anything, especially Sport, Football, Rugby etc. Over the years as he's developed his sporting skills, I've had the privilege of watching him play Football & Rugby for local Teams and he's still involved in some way today.
My Young Person's birthday is close to Christmas Day, so I like to take the opportunity with the support of the IV Scheme to spoil him, just a little bit! We've managed to watch England at Twickenham, playing Japan and seen Spurs playing at Wembley against Stoke City. These events have been great for both of us, but we're just as happy having a coffee or a burger in a local Café just chatting about everyday things.
My Young Person is 18yrs old at the end of this year, with him now at college and working part-time, I hope he'll continue in wanting to maintain our contact. I for one would very much like to see the relationship grow, as I see so many similarities that both he and I experienced as a young adult finding his way into the world.
After nearly 10yrs together I've really enjoyed the occasions we spend together, and I hope my young person gets as much from his time with me. He's 18yrs old at the end of this year, I hope to be able to continue building on our friendship.
I am in the lucky position of being self employed and wanted to 'give something back' to the community so when I saw the advert in a local paper. I was intrigued so applied.
After the interview and two day training course I was matched with my first young person straight away and it was a fantastic match. She was just turning 15 and was a 'mini me', loved football supported the same team as I did and loves walking. We have had a lot of good visits over the years and when she left the scheme to go to university, we stayed in contact and have met up several times since and message each other regularly. She will be a friend for life, I hope.
I have had two further matches and they have also been good and I love seeing my young person. My latest match is very recent and I have only seen them twice but we have already booked the next visit.
I think it is nice for a young person in care to meet up with someone who is not 'official' and they can have a good chat about things. We can just hang out and have a good time. I would highly recommend people to consider doing this as it is such good fun for both parties. You meet around once a month and I think most people could make time in their diary once a month to meet up with a young person.
I hope to be doing this role for a long time.
Six years ago I answered an advertisement for Independent Visitors for Wiltshire Council, and I'm very glad I did! The interview and subsequent training were thorough and interesting and I thought carefully about my interests to put on the match form. My Young Person and I bonded over a love of strawberries, chocolate, ice cream, and art!
I can honestly say that being an IV is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I have been matched for six years now and have been privileged to be able to watch my Young Person grow and develop into the beautiful, charming, and kind young lady she is today.
The IV role is so important! We provide consistency and stability in what can sometimes be an unstable, frequently challenging world for our young people. We are a voice of calm, reassurance and encouragement, providing fun and a place to talk in safety.
On our visits, my Young Person and I have danced under glitter balls at the Enchanted Christmas, made Easter bonnets, played crazy golf, photographed crocodiles and, of course, eaten lots of ice cream! I am honoured to have been able to take this role and to have provided a young person with a friend, a friend that I will also have, for life!
I have been matched with my young person for almost 2 years now. I love that she's ready, willing and excited every time I turn up. I hugely appreciate the warm welcome I get from the rest of the family too - siblings always keen to show me a picture or a school award.
We try and do something different at each meet (which is sometimes very tricky) but it's great for both of us to experience new things. We have been scarecrow hunting, walking goats, crazy golf, to the cinema, painting pottery to name a few activities.
Sometimes she opens up to me which is really humbling that she trusts me so much. It really isn't too much to ask of me, a few hours every month isn't a big deal - but it is to my young person and that's what matters.
I have volunteered for various organisations throughout my adult life and have found that helping others has positively impacted and enriched my life. There were times when I considered but felt unable to foster and so when I heard about the Independent Visitor Scheme I knew it was a way in which I could support a child in care. On my wall at home I have a postcard that says: 'Be who you were created to be and you will set the World on Fire.' It reflects my passion to see children thrive and reach their full potential and so my hope is that I can help just one child to feel valued and special.
I love the idea of being able to support young people as they develop and make them feel good about themselves. Just spending time and chatting away is great.
I have been thinking about becoming an IV for a number of years but the timing never felt completely right. I work as a Mental Health Social Worker with children and know the difference that people can make in children's lives when they are looked after.
The timing suddenly felt right as I work part-time and my own children are getting older - one is now at Uni and the other is applying to attend. I felt that I have the time to commit, both now and in the coming years. I have only recently been matched with a 13 year old girl and we have now been out for three trips together so far. The scheme has done a good job in matching us and we are enjoying spending time with each other - a mutual love of art and cake has been found!
I look forward to seeing where this journey will take us and feel privileged to be a small part of her life.