A story by Befrienders SCIO
Befrienders SCIO provided a 1:1 befriending service to vulnerable young people, many of whom are young carers.
In addition, many of the befriendees have their own additional support needs. Our service allows the parent or carer to spend quality time with siblings.
What Befrienders did
We recruited, selected, trained and matched adult volunteers with vulnerable children and young people in their community. The frequency and amount of time the volunteer befriender spends with the child or young person depends on both parties and the activities are many and varied. The focus is always on the quality of the relationship and the child or young person benefits from having a trusted adult who is there for them.
Parent(s) or carer(s) of the child or young person are able to spend quality time by themselves, with each other and with siblings, and in their communities, knowing that their child or young person is being cared for by someone who has chosen to be with them. The befrienders and befriendees spend time in their local communities. Sometimes, activities take the form of a regular event.
Some children or young people, for example, benefit from regular horse riding or another regular activity. The majority of our befrienders and befriendees vary what they do together at each meeting. Sometimes it might be baking a cake, cooking or sharing a meal or watching some television together, while the next time it might be a visit to a local place of interest, or the cinema.
We have a young person who has recently been delighted to learn chess from his befriender and they now play together on a regular basis. This young person has been able to use his new skill and has found the confidence to play chess with other young people, an important step towards improving her relationships with her peers.
Our Project Worker is able to spend time with carers, often signposting them to services that can be of use to them. We are committed to staying informed about local services and have participated in forums and meetings throughout Argyll and Bute for voluntary and statutory services to ensure that we are always up to date with information and opportunities that we can share with carers of the children and young people we work with.
We have been particularly pleased to have been able to set up a match on an island where previously we have been struggling to do so. The Better Breaks funding has been an essential factor in doing this.
What Befrienders SCIO has learned
We have learned that there is still potential to develop our service. What we have become most aware of is that there is a real need for longer term respite for the families that we work with. We have been making plans to progress this and we hope to find funding to pursue the possibility and perhaps begin a pilot project in one of the areas we work in.
We have also learned new strategies for approaching work on the islands in Argyll and Bute. The funding from Better Breaks has enabled us to pursue this and it is work that we want to develop in future. The funding for a Project Worker has enabled us to reach out to work flexibly with families who need immediate assistance. This is also work that we wish to develop further as we are becoming more aware of an increasing need for this as statutory services have less funding and resources.
How Befrienders SCIO has benefitted from the funding
The Better Breaks funding allowed us to work directly with more families, offering tailored support depending on need. We feel it also helped in securing other funding, people know of Better Breaks and the work it has funded/funds in our area which helps. We are always keen to attend courses to expand our knowledge base, as we are a small organisation we are very used to cascading learning to our paid workers and then on to our volunteers and also we have opportunities through multi agency for a, to pass this on to colleagues within both statutory and voluntary sectors. This year we held our first conference which was enjoyed by those in attendance. We chose speakers who could give input directly related to befriending, all be it from very different angles. We hope to make this an annual event as it was very useful in getting together volunteers, colleagues and speakers.
We will have 15 new matches this year, for young people with disabilities, allowing them to enjoy opportunities which will enrich their lives and offer time out for their parent or carer.
At this time, we have ten new referrals for children with disabilities, six of whom have been matched and four are not matched, but are working along with our paid staff. Many and varied opportunities have been enjoyed by befrienders and befriendees, including horse riding, visits to the cinema, meals out, archery, perfume making. All of these activities encourage the young people to be involved in their own communities and offer experiences that may not otherwise have been available to them. At the same time the young people have had the opportunity to develop a relationship with a trusted adult. In some cases, these opportunities have broadened the young person's horizons and they have been enabled to partake in other community activities, due to their increased confidence and self-esteem.
Taking part in creating a beauty product in a prominent local business has been a definite highlight for two young people and their befrienders. The young people and their befrienders created their own product at the workshop and then were able to take some home. The sense of achievement was huge and the benefits of improved confidence and self-esteem were wonderful to see and hear about. This is a wonderful example of a local business person in the community reaching out (they offered) and saying, although we don't have time to be matched with a young person at present, we value the work of Befrienders and we want to contribute to the well being of a local young person. Having funding has meant that our Project Worker has been able to help raise our profile locally through newsletters, social media, taking part in events alongside our Project Director. Raised awareness means that we hear more from people like this wonderful business person who wants to help when she can and is full of creative ideas about how she can do so. The young people's carers were rightly proud that they had been involved in this exciting project and we were all very impressed with the results.
We would hope to have improved family relationships and all family members feeling supported and more confident.
The families benefited from regular contact with a volunteer befriender and also regular input from our project worker. Children and young people spend different amounts of time with their befriender. Some have been their befriender on a more frequent basis than others (our preference is for once a week but we understand that people commit what they can and match appropriately). What matters is that each session gives carers and the child or young person a break from each other. We all know how important it can be to have a break from the people we are closest to. We return refreshed and with new ideas, able to share the experiences that we have had. This is what we hear from the parents and carers of children who have been spending time with their befriender. At the same time, our paid workers have been able to support where appropriate with suggestions, signposting and practical assistance. Or often just some non-judgemental listening.
It's not easy to live with young children who have additional support needs, even more so when you are isolated in the community you live in due to a number of factors. It's understandable that help was needed quickly. Matching a child and young person is something that we do carefully so we are not always able to find a volunteer immediately. It's important that we try to give each match the best chance of working as many of the children, young people and their carers have had poor experiences of relationships in their lives. We do everything that we can to ensure that each match has the best chance of success. So it's in this situation that having funding for a Project Worker is so important. The Project Worker can spend time with the family and also with the child or young person while we do our best to organise a match. Our Project Worker was able, in this situation, to support the family to make links in the community and to spend time enjoying themselves together. At the same time we were able to provide practical assistance with a number of every day tasks that have made a difference to the family's situation. We believe that the funding that we have had has been able to provide flexible and responsive assistance to a family who were in crisis and who are now making progress towards enjoying a more stable and enjoyable life within their own community.
Carers of children and young people with disabilities will have more opportunities to enjoy a life outside of their caring role.
The carers were able to enjoy their own activities knowing that their young person was being cared for by a trusted adult. Carers also benefited from being able to discuss matters with our project worker. We know from the carers that we have work with that maintaining friendships and links in the community can be extremely difficult. The regular time that our volunteers have spent with children and young people has enabled the carers involved to pursue their own interests. We have been told that sometimes this is taking time to cook a meal, maybe have a walk, meet friends for a coffee, or participate in an activity with the child or young person's sibling that otherwise would not have been possible. During the time we have had funding from Better Breaks , we have had two carers who have been able to participate in educational opportunities.
It isn't easy to improve your employment opportunities when you can't access the education we need. A carer we have been working with got the opportunity to access a useful training opportunity but it was in the early evening. She had explored all other options but this was the course suited to her (it involved using Skype). She needed silence to participate and that was not going to be easy. We already had a match progressing and when we made our volunteer aware of the situation, she said that for a time limited period she could commit to meeting with the young person each week while her carer participated in the course. We really appreciated our volunteer's willingness to fit into the needs of the family in this instance. The carer was able to complete the course and the young person and her befriender enjoyed sharing a meal together each week. They now meet at different times and participate in a variety of activities but the initial time that they spent together doing a regular activity has provided a solid foundation for their befriending relationship. The carer has been able to progress to another course which can be approached more flexibly and can be completed while her daughter is at school. She now tends to use the time that her daughter is with her befriender to catch up with friends and have some time to relax.