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Havering Independent Visitors Service

The Havering Independent Visitors Service offers befriending support to every Havering child or young people in care up to the age of 18, whether they are placed in or out of the borough.

What is an Independent Visitor?

An Independent Visitor is a volunteer who is independent from Children’s Social Care. They are matched with a child or young person in care and act solely in their interests. They will visit a child or young person every two-three weeks, take part in activities together, and listen to their thoughts, hopes and concerns. All volunteers are over 18 years old, and are fully trained and checked.

If a child or young person in care requires representation at meetings and forums, to ensure that their voice is heard, they will need to access the Havering Children’s Rights Advocacy Service (link)

Who runs the Service?

Havering Independent Visitor Service is run by the Early Help Service, to ensure it is separate from Children’s Social Care and to ensure there is no conflict of interest.

What can an Independent Visitor offer a young person?

An Independent Visitor commits to up to 18 months of visits and befriending support (should the young person wish to continue for this length of time). A young person can guarantee that their Independent Visitor is matched with them alone. Visits will take place every two-three weeks, at venues and including activities according to the wishes of each young person. The Service is led by the young person at every stage.

How is a young person matched with their Independent Visitor?

When a referral is accepted, the young person will be contacted to capture their thoughts and wishes regarding the Independent Visitor they would like to be matched with, and what they want to gain from the Service. A volunteer matching this profile is approached and an initial, introduction meeting will take place with the young person, to ensure both parties are comfortable before regular visits begin.

How can a young person access the Service?

To make a referral, please download and complete the attached referral form. For further information on Havering Independent Visitor Service, please contact Rachel Tapp on 01708 432321 or rachel.tapp@havering.gov.uk

Complete a referral form

Case study – Karen Hayes

Karen Hayes

Former cub scout leader Karen Hayes didn’t think twice after spotting a call for volunteers to help support young people in care.

She was responding to a request from Havering Council to find local people willing to spend some time with a young person in care.

The idea was to meet up with a young person for a few hours every three to four weeks and join in with an activity they like.

“I saw the advert in the Council’s enewsletter for independent visitors and I thought ‘I could do that”, so I did.

“I wanted to do more than be an “at home” person,” said Karen, who took up the role after being made redundant.

After having a chat with staff to find out more and ensuring it was what she wanted to do, Karen was given training before being asked to support a 13-year-old.

“I’m really enjoying it. I have learned a lot and it has really challenged me,” she says. Karen adds that she has met new people and it has reignited a sense of adventure and enthusiasm in her.

Since signing up to become a volunteer, she has taken the young person bowling, on the orbital slide in Stratford, on a trip to London, to play crazy golf and other exciting activities, with the whole idea of ensuring they have some fun time.

“Speaking to other volunteers,” Karen said, “all young people have different personalities and experiences and some have found it takes a while for the young person to open up while others have taken the Independent Visitor into their confidence at the first meeting, but I hope I have been able to make a difference.”

Karen says she has developed personally, as well as increased her knowledge and understanding of the variety of issues that can have an impact on young people in today’s world and has recently attended training about how young people can get drawn into county lines, which she hadn’t previously been aware of. 

The service is led by Rachel Tapp and Alison Day.

“Rachel and Alison make themselves available and offer advice, if you have concerns, so there is a lot of help and support.

“The group of volunteers also try to meet up occasionally to share our experiences and thoughts on how our relationships with our young people are progressing which I personally find useful.”

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