A story by Cosgrove Care
Buddy Connexions aimed to train and match 35 volunteer buddies with 35 children and young people living in East Renfrewshire. The scheme aimed to provide flexible support on a 1-2-1 basis at home or in the community. We provided monthly sessions for young people with their buddy at our Connexions hub in East Renfrewshire.
Befriending networks ‘mapping the gaps’ reported only 8% of reported individuals with learning disabilities being supported by volunteers and none in East Renfrewshire
What Buddy Connexions did
Over the past year we have recruited and trained 35 volunteers to become buddy connectors. This involved advertising, interviews, checking references, processing PVG applications and selecting buddies based on the criteria of the project and the needs of the children and young people referred to the project. We focused on ensuring that buddies understood their role- to work towards specific goals, encourage personal development and social skills and work towards a job or other locally based work opportunities for their buddy.
The process of training involved Autism training, compiling online training booklets, consolidating the content and carrying out in-house training and induction. We then matched 10 young people in conjunction with the Children's Service Manager and Volunteer Co-ordinator. This involved coordinating between staff, families and buddies and aiming to get times to suit all parties. We developed a range of resources for the buddy connectors including Befriendee Personal Profiles and Befriending logs. These resources have proved successful in matching buddy's with potential families.
Families indicated to Cosgrove that they wanted and needed more natural supports for their children and young adults and particular support around the time of transition. As an organisation, we are fortunate to have recruited a high number of good quality volunteers, many of whom have experience of supporting young people on a 1-2-1 basis. Many of those of applied for the buddy connexions work demonstrated and came with the necessary skills to undertake this work.
We used local press and local networks to advertise for our buddy roles. We matched 10 young people successfully with buddies during this period and were able to successfully support these young people through a process of regular community based activities. We also developed a range of effective resources.. The challenge we faced was that of referral pathways and building our knowledge of the vulnerable young people referred to us for the project ensuring that no child protection issues arose. For those that we were able to match, the children and buddy connectors were able to become involved.
The Cosgrove team met with the family to get feedback which was positive and we also fed back to Zak. The family were able to spend time together, have a meal together with their other children. The mum and dad also got time together alone whilst the support was being delivered providing respite and quality time with other children. The family secured their own personal budget and have now bought in support from Cosgrove. Zak has now progressed to being a sessional member of staff.
This was successful and the outcome was that the young girl built a strong relationship with the young volunteer, the volunteer gained valuable caring experience. mum got to attend to household tasks, get some rest and she really valued the rest and support received.
This was successful and was going to progress to the mum wanting to go out and do her shopping, she felt comfortable enough with the support to leave her child. Cosgrove believed that the volunteer did not have the experience to support the child with no family present in the home. Them family still receive support from Cosgrove but this is the point where we recognised the limitations of the model.
The young volunteer was 18 years old. The support works when there is a level of support within the family home.
What Cosgrove Care has learnedThree things we have learned, the fund has helped us develop great volunteer resources, a strong protocol for young volunteers and a commitment and outcomes around how we recruit young volunteers into our organisation. We learned that in order to meet the criterion around accessing and supporting hard to reach families, we moved out to work with families who were not previously connected to the organisation. This required a significant amount of time to build relationships, referral routes were more complex, some families had no previous experience of care or assessment of needs. This meant we needed to spend more time ensuring that we had risk fully assessed and address the crisis- ie no social work services in place and at time have chaotic families referred.
Lastly that the project outcomes were over ambitious at the outset and there were a few unknown factors with where referrals would come from and how we would build a profile of needs where there was no existing assessment of need. Child protection issues were not addressed fully at the outset in terms of the implications of young people supporting other young people within a family home setting. This required intensive intervention from our team to ensure all safeguards were in place and made matching difficult.
Changes in key personnel, changes to the local authority environment in terms of deleting residential respite which changed families immediate needs in this area. What happened as a result of this was a significant shift in what families needed and wanted. we submitted revisions which Shared Care Scotland felt took us too far from our initial concepts.