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You could make a huge difference to the life of a child in care

Lifestyle / Tue 13th Mar 2018 at 05:24pm

ESSEX County Council is appealing for local residents to become ‘Independent Visitors’ and give some of their spare time to young people in care.

Independent Visitors are dependable volunteers who are matched with a young person and help to improve their confidence while having fun during visits.

The service aims to give children in care exactly the same opportunities as their peers, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of having an extended support network away from their foster home or residential unit.

Local volunteer Andrew Lapsky has been volunteering with the service for six months and is urging more local people to come forward and impart their invaluable life knowledge and experiences.

Andrew, who lives in Billericay, said: “When you have come through your younger years and have learnt key life skills, it’s important to take opportunities to share these with people who weren’t exposed to the same situations or who don’t have the same support networks around them. Volunteers are so important because it confirms for young people in care that there are individuals across the county who are concerned about them and their welfare, and that these people aren’t being paid to look after them.”

The visits can be a chance to do everyday things, like going into town or to a restaurant, or the time may be spent just fielding questions, teaching skills, or simply lending a sympathetic ear.

Councillor Dick Madden, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “We’re committed to ensuring all young people in care benefit from the same opportunities as their peers and that they go on to thrive.

“Having a consistent role model in their life that’s not a professional or carer can truly make a huge difference; there is no prior experience necessary to be an Independent Visitor, just the ability to connect with, and offer caring support to a vulnerable child.”

Andrew added: “Your background is irrelevant really, but having key skills is important; you definitely need to be empathetic and supportive. You also need to be good at listening and picking up on the things that maybe they don’t say, or have trouble sharing, and then knowing what action to take. I would highly encourage anyone looking to volunteer with young people to find out more about the Independent Visitors’ service.”

Local people can find out more and apply to become an Independent Visitor, here:

https://www.essex.gov.uk/Business-Partners/Partners/Adult-Social-Care-providers/Pages/Become-an-Independent-Visitor.aspx

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