Wiltshire independent visitor scheme

About the project

Wiltshire Independent Visitor Scheme provides young people living in the care system with the long-term support of an independent adult befriender, throughout the time they are in care. Independent visitors meet young people for two-to-three hours every two-to-three weeks and enjoy social activities together as well as providing the young person with advice, support and a listening ear if they are experiencing any difficulties in their lives.

The scheme is APS accredited and is attached at ‘arms length’ to Wiltshire Council, by whom it is funded.

Project’s aims

  • To contribute to the welfare of looked after young people by visiting, advising and befriending them
  • To promote the needs of the individuals
  • To encourage the young people to exercise their right to participate in decisions taken about them
  • To support the young people’s care plan (unless there is clear evidence to act differently)

Impact on befriendees

  • 47 young people living in care have benefitted from the befriending scheme since the project was established in 2000.
  • 22 young people are currently in receipt of the Independent Visitor Scheme’s service. The Scheme receives excellent feedback from these young people, and from their Independent Visitors, carers and social workers alike.  
  • Analysis of individual visits made to young people show that Independent Visitors contribute significantly to helping young people achieve all Every Child Matters outcomes, particularly in the areas of “Enjoy and Achieve” and “Being Healthy”.  
  • Since project evaluation by the service’s current manager began in 2005, 7 young people on the scheme have left care and 5 of these continue to have contact with their Independent Visitor. Out of the 7 young people who have been on the scheme and have left care, 5 are in full-time education.

Personal impact statements

Maz had the following to say about her befriender Barbara and their relationship:

I was a bit nervous when I first met Barbara and I tested her out a bit… I wanted to see if I could trust her… She’s helped me grow up and now I see her as a friend. Without her support I think I’d have got into a lot more trouble, I wouldn’t be where I am now, who knows where I’d be… Wherever I’ve moved to (I’ve moved a lot) Barbara has always kept in touch and come to see me

Barbara had the following to say about her befriendee Maz and their relationship:

I became an Independent Visitor when I was newly retired and looking for another challenge in life. It has been a challenge, but a most rewarding one.

I was matched with Maz when she was 14 and living in a children’s home. She will admit that she gave me a hard time when we first met and I was initially tested by her until she thought I was trustworthy. Indeed, why would she not mistrust and want to test a perfect stranger?

The relationship has really progressed and she has become very relaxed in my company. We get on very well together (although secretly, I think she thinks I am a little mad!) However I do believe that she now has complete trust in me and I am often the first point of contact when she has a problem in her life.

 In short, the five years I have known Maz have been rewarding and always interesting. A young, sometimes troublesome teenager has grown into a mature young woman who recognises that she does need some support at times. I am sure we will keep in touch with each other for many years to come!

Sheila, the project co-ordinator for the scheme had the following to say about the relationship:

Maz was 13 when she was first referred to the Independent Visitor Scheme. She had come into care at the age of 10, and after eight placement breakdowns, was living in a residential home for teenagers and having little contact with her parents and her sisters. Maz’s experiences had left her angry and she found it difficult to trust adults, particularly those in positions of authority.

Although when she first met her befriender Barbara, Maz “gave her a hard time” (Maz’s words) they have continued to meet regularly ever since and now can’t imagine not having known each other. Barbara has seen Maz through many difficult times, and been a consistent figure in her life for more than five years, when so many other things have changed for her. She is usually the first person Maz will get in touch with when she is having difficulties, and Barbara has been a determined advocate, ensuring Maz gets the support to which she is entitled.

Although formally the Independent Visitor relationship will come to an end when Maz is 21, she and Barbara are intending keeping in touch with each other informally after this time, and Maz hopes that one day she will be able to invite Barbara to her wedding!

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