Additional Support Needs Children & Young People of Shetland
A story by Shetland Befriending Scheme
We provide a befriending 1:1 support service to children & young people aged between 7-18 years with ASN throughout Shetland. Volunteers are recruited from the community & train to become befrienders.
Volunteers are matched to a young person & they meet on a weekly or fortnightly basis for a few hours at a time and engage in positive & purposeful activities whilst their carer has a break.
What Additional Support Needs Children & Young People of Shetland did
Our full time ASN Development worker supported 3 volunteer recruitment drives in the last 12 months. Each drive occurred over a 6 week period which involved a range of methods to attract new people to come forward to volunteer. These included press release, newspaper/radio advertisment, boards with information at prominent places, e-mail bulletins, posts on our facebook page, talks with groups of people & posters in local shops/health centres/dentist waiting areas.
Anyone coming forward who was keen to volunteer completed an application form and went through the scheme recruitment process interview with suitable references being requested. All new volunteers undertook 8 sessions x 2.5 hours of initial training before being matched up to a young person. The scheme requests that all new volunteers offer a minimum commitment of 6 months once completed training. The ASN service recruited 5 new volunteers this year.
Each volunteer was matched on a 1:1 basis and met with their young person on a fortnightly basis for a few hours at a time and undertook a range of activities within their own community.
The meetings occurred after school, in the evenings or at the weekends. Activities included going swimming, playing badminton/other racket sports at the leisure centre, went to the cinema, attended group arts & crafts sessions, undertook shopping for xmas/special occasion gifts, went out for lunch, visited museums/art galleries & visited places of interest around Shetland, e.g beaches, airports to watch planes land, open gardens.
Over the last 12 months the project has been able to support 19 matches, 4 matches have just started in Feb 15, 3 was under 6 months, 4 between 6-12 months long, 5 been between 12-18 months long and 3 have been over 2 years.
Whilst the young person was out the carer was able to do an activity with their other child/children e.g. go to the cinema, do some baking at home or arts and crafts on a 1:1 basis. Some carers went shopping, some went for a nice coffee & cake, some went to visit a family member or friend. There were some who relaxed at home or got caught up in tasks that were long overdue, e.g. clearing out the cupboard
What Shetland Befriending Scheme has learned
We have learned that the matching process can take time and whilst there may be a young person who is in high demand for the service, if we don't have the most suitable volunteer for a match then it may not be a successful match.
We have been very fortunate to have developed really good relationships with our referral agents and they have been supportive in providing additional information and support where needed, i.e allowing befriending staff to meet a young person for the first time in a place where they are comfortable/familiar with e.g. school environment. We value this immensely to ensure we are meeting the needs of the young people we are supporting in the best possible way we can.
We have been very fortunate to have recruited volunteers who have been very committed to the scheme, and whilst we request that a volunteer commits for a minimum of 6 months to the service, many matches have gone on longer than this and this has provided a positive stable support for a young person with ASN. We fully understand the need to continue to support a volunteer in their role in any way we can to continue to motivate them. Feedback has come from volunteers that they feel very reassured that whilst there is structured supervision for them there is also the open door policy to get some guidance/reassurance/support if they need it.
We have learned that whilst we don't promote the befriending service as a respite service , ultimately the carers take the time whilst the young person is out, to do something for themselves. They are reassured that the young person is out undertaking a fun activity with someone responsible and they can relax knowing they will have a few hours to themselves or if they have other children, can take time to do something with them.
From our experience many of the parents/guardians of the Children with ASN do not see themselves as carers, they take on their responsibilities as a parent/guardian like anyone would. We have felt that they would be less likey to ask for support for themselves but have been more open to accept help for their young person through accessing befriending support.