More male volunteers needed for Independent Volunteer Scheme

2nd December 2021, 2:02pm | By Ros Griffiths |

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.

Sayed came to the UK as an unaccompanied asylum seeker when he was only 13 years old, having fled from danger in his home country of Afghanistan. He had to leave behind his family and travel on his own across Europe before reaching a place of safety in England.

As a young teenager, he was placed in a foster family in Wiltshire. He quickly had to learn a new language and adapt to a completely different culture and education system.

Sayed was 13 years old when he was linked up with Independent Visitor (IV) Paul

Their introduction took place with the help of an interpreter, and from then on, they got to know each other through a shared love of sport. Their very first visit together was playing a game of pitch and putt at a local sports centre. Sayed had never held a golf club before but proved to be an absolute natural at the game. Paul was delighted that this experience sparked such an interest in Sayed and was really proud when he went on to be picked to play golf as a junior for his county.

Wiltshire Council is sharing stories of how having an adult to talk to and trust can have a positive impact on a young person in care in a bid to encourage more volunteers to come forward.

Sayed and Paul met up regularly through the IV scheme every month for seven years until Sayed was 21. Over the course of that time they talked together about all sorts of things and shared many new experiences. On one occasion they both even attended an official event at No 10 Downing street, held in celebration of mentoring and befriending relationships.

Since leaving the IV scheme at the age of 21, Sayed has always kept in touch with Paul and they still meet up together as friends. Sometimes, when they both have time, they will still go and hit a few golf balls together (although Sayed now plays off a hard to beat 2 handicap!)

At 28 years old, Sayed is a determined, hard-working young man with his own young family. He has always really valued the help that Paul gave him, growing up in care, in a new and unfamiliar country, away from the support of his own family.

Paul initially heard about the Wiltshire IV Scheme through his volunteering work as a retained firefighter. Despite a full-time job, family commitments and his work for the fire service, Paul felt he had some extra time to spare, and decided to put his name forward to become an IV.

From the time they first met, he always took a real interest in Sayed’s life and has been there when needed to offer encouragement and support.

Cllr Laura Mayes, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said: “The inspiring story of Sayed and Paul shows simply and effectively the incredible impact having a constant source of support can have to help a young person through what can be a challenging period of life. We are so grateful to Paul for making that difference and the many other volunteers who are part of this scheme. We always need more volunteers, and particularly we need male volunteers. If you are interested, please get in touch to find out more detail.”

Wiltshire IV Scheme is currently looking to recruit more male volunteers in particular, to support children who live in care. If you are interested in this role, please contact: ivscheme@wiltshire.gov.uk

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