Ordinary people like us are making extraordinary differences to young people’s lives ... by sparing a little time to become their friends.
Take Belinda. She read a Lincolnshire newspaper story like this and, four years ago, began a friendship with a lad in care that is still enriching both of their lives.
The 55-year-old mum, with two grown up offspring, is an independent visitor with the charity Coram Voice, which works to give kids in care a better quality of life.
Her role is independent of social services and school, or any kind of officialdom, and it’s a licence to have fun with games of crazy golf, go tenpin bowling, have picnics or leisurely countryside walks with her young friend.
Belinda said: “We talk about friends, family, school, the future, exams, football and everything in between.
“He knows that I will listen and not judge and can share whatever is on his mind without fear of upset or trouble. It’s a chance to make a positive contribution.
“I know that my young person eventually won’t need me and when that day comes I will be so proud of the young adult he will have become.”
The charity is looking for more people in Lincolshire to become independent visitors.
Belinda joined six years ago and for the last four has been working with the same young man who lives with a foster family.
Because she lives some distance away from the lad’s home, Belinda sees him once every couple of months but says most visitors commit to one day a month.
“We are just somebody who can spend quality time with them,” she said.
Belinda says it takes time to build the relationship and being able to commit long term to the role is important.
She said: “Now we are at the stage where he just jumps into the car and he chats and he chats. He views me as his grown-up friend, a bit – I suppose – like an aunt.”
On its website, Coram Voice says: “In the UK today there are over 68,000 children reliant on the state for their care and wellbeing, with 378,000 more needing some level of support from children’s services. It’s not their fault.
“They are there because their families cannot care for them safely or because they have been abused or neglected.”
Coram Voice works alongside Lincolnshire County Council to provide the independent visiting service for children aged from eight to 18 years.
Volunteers become a reliable and consistent point of contact for a child who is isolated and has limited or no family contact.
Training is provided and expenses are paid to cover costs.
Activities and outings help build the young person’s confidence and self-esteem and include bowling, the cinema or sports, depending on the age and interests of the young person. Volunteers are there to listen to any issues or concerns the young person wants to discuss.
Volunteers enjoy the challenge and rewarding experience of building a lasting friendship with a child in care, and the children benefit greatly from a constant, fun relationship with someone independent from the care system.
Independent visiting is a long-term, one-to-one commitment.
Volunteers must be over 18 and will be subject to enhanced police checks.
Full training and ongoing support will be given, and out of pocket expenses will be paid for mileage and activities.
If you are thinking of becoming an independent visitor in Lincolnshire, and want to know more, please call Kim Scott on 07940 754266.
For more information on Coram Voice and its work please visit www.coramvoice.org.uk
Previously known as Voice for the Child in Care (VCC), the charity was founded in 1975 by former social worker Gwen James.
• Belinda is not the independent visitor’s real name.