What are independent visitors?
Independent visitors (IVs) are volunteers over the age of 18 who give their time in order to befriend a child or young person who otherwise wouldn’t get such a personal relationship. The role was created in 1989 as part of the Children Act so that children who are under the care of their local authority’s social services teams and who have little or even no communication from their birth parents, would have an adult in their lives. The adult should work together with the carers and support the care plan that has been put into place for the child. They will take an interest in the affairs of the child and support and advise them where appropriate. They will encourage their development in all areas (including social, developmental and emotional) and may even participate in the decision making that will affect the lives of the child. They are not a substitute for a carer or family.
How are they appointed?
They are appointed when it is identified by the local authority that it would be in the child’s best interest to do so. The authority will take into consideration the wishes and feelings of the child when trying to find them a match with a prospective IV. The IV cannot be an elected member or officer within the local authority where the child is in care, however other than that there are few restrictions. You would need to meet a person specification and role description though – just like for any job application. Some agencies prefer a minimum commitment of two years.
If you are still interested, and can spare a few hours every few weeks, contact your local authority or search online for other organisations or charities which provide the service in your area. It is a rigourous selection and suitability process but you will be supported and trained throughout. Once you are selected and approved, there will be opportunities to meet with other IVs.
It really is a great opportunity to get involved with a brilliant programme and help out with children in care who really could do with that bit extra support. It’s low in time commitment and it’s very rewarding.