So, what is an independent visitor?
Children in care can get moved around a lot—the average number of moves in Hammersmith and Fulham is 3.41 per child, but it is not unusual for this number to be much higher—with around 17 placements per child. It is also likely that the number of professionals involved in their lives— social workers (who change from around 10-30 times too), looked after children nurses, foster parents, teachers, children’s rights advocates etc. etc. is much greater than the number of unpaid close friends and family.
This is why the Independent Visitor scheme exists—it allows volunteers who are not being paid and are somewhat independent of children’s rights services to spend time getting to know children and young people in care, and build up a stable, long-term relationship with them. Independent Visitors are matched with a child or young person who thinks that they would benefit from a friendship with an adult—the IV then takes them out once a month to do fun activities—to go to the cinema, for a meal out, to a museum, to play sport etc.—normal kid things that they might have otherwise missed out on.
That sounds fun…
It is! It’s a great scheme and perfect for people like me who don’t have masses of time to commit to volunteering, but who would still like to put in a lot of effort, learn something new and hopefully make a small but significant difference to someone’s life :
How long does it take to become one?
There is a lot of training and paper-work involved before you can get to be an IV…
A really really large amount—by the time I am finally matched it will be about a year since I applied and started training. Obviously you have to be CRB checked, and then you are taught a lot about the care system, the legislation, safeguarding of children, and given a chance to talk to social workers, looked-after-children nurses, young people who have had IVs before and lots of other things to make sure you can deal with any challenges that are thrown up, and are aware of the boundaries of the role.
You are also assessed to see if you are suitable during the training, and after a two hour home interview about your background, the information about you is presented before a panel! That all sounds much more dramatic than it is—the people in Hammersmith and Fulham are all lovely, and even the home interview is very informal.
I have really enjoyed the process actually, as it is an area I knew practically nothing about before, and talking to children who have been through the IV scheme and the care system was really eye-opening about what life is like when there isn’t the safety net and memories and familiarity of family that I have always been lucky enough to have.
It’s also been very interesting to meet all the people working in children’s rights services and hear about their experiences.
I’ve never heard of this scheme before?
The IV scheme is actually written into the Children and Young Person’s Act, but it is not widely known about even within social care. Many young people are not offered Independent Visitors and it isn’t advertised. There are only ten IVs in Hammersmith and Fulham (12 including me and another person I trained with) although there are over 200 children currently in care in the area.
If you want to find out more about it go to this obscure link of the Hammersmith and Fulham website.
Anyway, yesterday I sent off a profile of myself to the young person I might be matched with!
Fingers crossed 😀
Also I’m just finished with comprehensive exams today. They were not too pleasant an experience, but hopefully they went OK.
Good luck to everyone else revising at the moment!