Supported Befriending is a volunteering opportunity for young people aged 15-19 which began in September 2009. Volunteers are trained as befrienders before being accompanied in small groups of five to local care homes to take part in activities and conversations with the residents. The project targets young people due to leave school or those who have already left and are not in employment or education. Unlike most volunteering opportunities a support worker accompanies the group, providing support and supervision. It is hoped that the befriending, as well as being beneficial and enjoyable for residents, builds confidence and social skills in the young volunteers.
Volunteers stay with the project for up to 6 months, after which the support workers explore progression routes with the volunteers. If they are not quite ready to move on they can become peer mentors, assisting the next group of volunteers. Others may feel they are ready to volunteer in a different area such as childcare, retail or working with animals. The project also cooperates with other agencies such as Careers to look at employment and college opportunities.
Benefits for the younger people
Young volunteers gain confidence, social skills, and a sense of fulfillment through their interactions with residents. The project offers a unique opportunity for hands-on engagement and learning outside traditional educational settings.
Benefits for the older people
Residents of care homes benefit from companionship, social interaction, and stimulation provided by the young volunteers. They discover common interests and enjoy the company of younger individuals, enhancing their sense of well-being and connection.
Benefits for the community
Supported Befriending contributes to community cohesion by bridging generational divides and fostering empathy and understanding between different age groups. It enhances the quality of life for both volunteers and care home residents, creating a positive impact on the local community.
The sessions at the care home have been brilliant. Volunteers and residents have got on well with each other. Sometimes it‘s hard to get them to stop giggling so much! Using innovative activities such as Nintendo Wii, allow the young people to adopt a teaching and caring role. Other activities include card-making, dominoes, quizzes and floor sports. Volunteers take an active role in creating new activities with the residents.
Some young people who are not attending school regularly will come along to the befriending sessions at the care home. They find that the social, hands-on nature of the opportunity appeals to them. Young people learn that older adults are good fun to be around and the residents discover that they have more in common with the younger generation than they thought.
Funding applications have been submitted for next year to expand the project to include a supported gardening group to encourage boys to volunteer with the more physical/practical aspects.
“When will the young volunteers be back?” A frequent comment made by residents.
“I wouldn‘t mind staying in this care home one day – the people here are fun.” Volunteer.
“Volunteers are talking openly with residents and making people feel connected.” Care home activities organiser.