70 volunteers signed up to make a difference to young people's lives
Wiltshire Council has matched its 70th Independent Visitor to help young people who are in care or have experienced care to have a positive influence in their lives
Wiltshire Council has matched its 70th Independent Visitor to help young people who are in care or have experienced care to have a positive influence in their lives.
Jane Smith is the 70th Independent Visitor who has said she wants to "help just one child to feel valued and special."
The Independent Visitor Scheme encourages volunteers to spend time with a young person in care and be a trusted adult from outside the care system who can offer consistent, long-term support.
Young people are matched with Independent Visitors on the basis of their interests and needs. Once they are appointed, they can be expected to visit and spend time with the young person with whom they are matched, approximately once every three to four weeks. This support can continue for as long as a young person receives care or care leaver support from Wiltshire Council.
To celebrate the milestone, Independent Visitors were invited to attend a celebration event at County Hall in Trowbridge. People who are part of the scheme have also shared their own experiences of giving their time and seeing what a difference it can make to a young person.
Jane Smith explained: "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."
Andy Thompson has been an Independent Visitor for eight years. He wanted a new challenge after playing rugby. He had been raised through the care system in Wiltshire during the 60s and 70s, and was keen to see how things were changing for young people in care today.
He said: "My young person's birthday is close to Christmas Day, so I like to take the opportunity with the support of the Independent Visitor Scheme to spoil him, just a little bit! We've managed to watch England against Japan at Twickenham, and saw 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.
"After nearly 10 years 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 18 years old at the end of this year; I hope to be able to continue building on our friendship."
Independent Visitor Debbie Cambray-Smith said it is one of the most rewarding things she's ever done with good training provided for the role: "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 Independent Visitor 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!"
Cllr Laura Mayes, Cabinet Member for Children's Services, said: "I am so pleased we have 70 Independent Visitors that are making an incredible difference to our young people's lives. That's 70 stories of adults taking time to be a reassuring and constant support for young people in care, or who have experienced care, and providing a positive impact in their lives.
"We always need more, so anyone who would like further information please get in contact and we'll share details. For now I want to congratulate all our wonderful volunteers and say thank you for being there, for providing that safe, positive space and for all you will continue to do for our young people."
People wishing to find out more details about the Independent Visitor scheme can contact: IVScheme@wiltshire.gov.uk.