Once our volunteers have been through the interview process, the volunteer will work with the Area Co-ordinator to find a suitable match. All Older Friends have a Safeguarding Induction after their first interview and they also attend a compulsory Safeguarding and Child Protection group training session in the first few months of becoming an Older Friend.
The volunteer will be briefed by the Area Co-ordinator and the Social Worker involved (or the Lead Professional, if the referral is made through the Early Help Assessment) and will meet the child and family, before they agree to become the child’s Older Friend. The volunteer is a friend to the Child and does not take the place of professional workers who may be involved with the family.
Our Older Friends find these friendships to be both enjoyable and rewarding. Activities can be wide ranging, depending on the interests of the two friends. These may include: going for a drink and a walk in the park, baking, arts and crafts, swimming, parks and play areas, a visit to the library, bowling, badminton, gardening and cinema. In fact, anything the child will enjoy and help to develop their relationship; and in turn, character and self esteem.
In most cases, we would expect the friendship to be long-term and some of our friendships have lasted many years. However, situations do change, and if this happens the situation would be discussed with the Volunteer and Area Co-ordinator.
Older Friend Guidelines
- Be able to relate to the Younger Friend in an appropriate way, given his or her age, level of understanding, past experience and present situation.
- Build a one-to-one relationship based on trust and mutual respect.
- Act as a positive role model for the Younger Friend. Primarily you are a Friend who listens, supports and has outings with the Younger Friend, which you should both enjoy.
- Your friendship will have the aim of developing confidence and self-belief, widening interests, encouraging skills (however simple) and giving the Younger Friend an outing they enjoy. It may well be that if you achieve all this the Younger Friend will no longer feel that you are needed, but often friendships endure for a number of years.
- The first and basic requirement is a weekly meeting with your Younger Friend of about 2 – 3 hours. This can be at any time, outside of school hours and can be varied to suit both of you and what you want to do. This should be weekly unless circumstances make it impossible. In this case, it should be explained, in advance if possible.
- Friendship depends on mutual trust that cannot be built if the Younger Friend is let down.
- The place of meeting should more often be away from the Younger Friends and Older Friends home.
- We do not normally encourage having more than one meeting a week, although this can be relaxed for special occasions such as birthdays and for example, Christmas. These Guidelines cannot apply to all situations and in most situations common sense will prevail.
- The relationship will be a developing one and activities will vary depending on the stage of the relationship. Nevertheless, some aspects must be observed as part of the rules and discipline of the Project and the Guidelines cover these points. Your Group Supporter or Area Co-ordinator will be able to provide advice and guidance at any stage if you are uncertain about what is expected of you.
- The adult responsible for the child may be parents, carers or foster parents.
- In our years of operation we have had very few problems. However, if an incident arises, it must be reported. An incident is anything that happens which might harm the child, might be misrepresented or might damage the reputation of the Project. Examples are any possible allegations of abuse, any situation involving use of force, if a child or an Older Friend is injured, if a child runs off or if there is difficulty with parents or the referrer. In any of these types of situations, where something has gone wrong, the Older Friend must report it to the Area Co-ordinator. In turn, the Area Coordinator will inform the Operations Manager and the Chairman.