Become a volunteer

Family Friends’ volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds and they are selected for their qualities of warmth, empathy and understanding.

Everything you need to know

Who volunteers?

Family Friends’ volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds and they are selected for their qualities of warmth, empathy and understanding. They use our training and their commitment and life experiences to become a supportive friend or mentor. In addition to finding it very rewarding and gaining the benefit of learning some new skills, many use their experience of volunteering with us to help develop their own careers.  Our volunteers recognise the importance of reliability, confidentiality and trust.  

Programme - have you got what it takes?

  • Could you give two hours of your time a week and a minimum 6 months’ commitment to a family?
  • Are you a good listener with an empathetic nature? 
  • Can you withhold judgement? 
  • Are you reliable?
  • Are you over 23 years of age?
  • Have you lived in the UK for the last 2 years? 

“A very worthwhile experience with plenty of support from the Family Friends’ team” Hilary

What does Family Friends offer?

  • Full induction training and ongoing training
  • Weekly supervision and support
  • The chance to learn new skills 
  • References provided after 6 months’ commitment 
  • Reimbursement of travel and project expenses 

“I am certainly more aware of the difficulties for many in our society and I feel I have more empathy with families in difficulty” Hugh

What sort of families does Family Friends work with? 

All families have requested a volunteer and have expressed the desire to make positive changes in their lives.  Many face such issues as poverty, inadequate housing, poor health, social isolation, depression or challenges around refugee/asylum seeker/new immigrant status. Over 40% have a family member with a disability. Children may be affected by social exclusions, behavioural problems or lack of a positive adult role model. Often our families have become isolated from extended family and friends and need support to reconnect or find new resources. 

We are working through volunteers, not trained professionals, and so Family Friends does not work with families who have severe, long-term mental health issues, children under five on the child protection register, any children who are on the child protection register for sexual or physical abuse in the home, current untreated substance misuse and/or domestic violence.

What time commitment does Family Friends ask of volunteers? 

  • Volunteers visit the families they are matched to for 2 hours a week in the family’s home.  We look for a minimum of 6 months’ commitment but generally work with our families for 1 year. 
  • Before being matched to a family, volunteers are all required to attend an interview and complete a 14-hour training course.
  • Once volunteers are introduced, it is their responsibility to contact the office weekly to give feedback and receive supervision. This can be by email, phone or face-to-face. 
  • They are also expected to attend informal evening support meetings every 3 months where ongoing training is given. 

What is the recruitment process? 

  • Prospective volunteers download the registration form from our website and send it by email to our office. 
  • Family Friends’ staff telephone prospective volunteers to discuss their application and arrange to meet them. 
  • Group volunteer interviews take place at our offices, lasting 1-2 hours. 
  • For police checking purposes, prospective volunteers must have lived in the UK for the last 2 years and must not have travelled abroad for over 6 months in either year. 
  • Successful applicants are invited to attend the next training session. We contact their referees and send off police checks. 
  • Volunteers attend 14 hours of training. 
  • It may take 2-3 months from submitting the application form to being matched with a family. This depends on training dates, swift return of the police check and references and an appropriate family being available.
  • Once references and police check have been approved, and after discussing a prospective family with the volunteer, an introduction visit will be arranged.

 

“I have learnt many things from this experience including becoming more resilient, not giving up, being more creative and learning to have more patience with myself and others” Nishamani

What skills/experiences do I need to become a befriender/mentor volunteer?

We look for volunteers who are good listeners with an empathetic nature, who are able to withhold judgement. It is crucial that you are reliable and able to fulfil the time commitment. You do not need to have worked with families before; we welcome volunteers from all backgrounds who are ready to use their life experience to become a befriender/mentor. We will support you all the way.

Am I too old or too young to be a befriender/mentor?

You must be 23 years old to apply to volunteer with Family Friends and there is no upper age limit.

How long will it take to be matched to a family?

After successfully completing the two-day training, it normally takes 2 to 8 weeks. This can vary depending on how quickly we receive your references and DBS certificate. Also, the greater your time availability, the quicker it will be to match you.

What’s the difference between Parent Befriending and Child Mentoring?

Parent Befriending is working directly with a parent/carer of a child aged 0-16 years. The rest of the family may also be at the home during visits. Child mentoring is working directly with a child aged 5-16. When mentoring a child, we ask that you spend 15 minutes each visit with the parent/carer. Our support is holistic and so both programmes are designed to have impact on the whole family.

What kind of time availability do I need to have?

You’ll need to be available to do a 2 hour visit weekly; this does not include your travel time. Some parents prefer support during the weekdays when children may be at school. Child Befriending normally takes place after school in the week, or on the weekends. Volunteers commit to working with a family for a year. We do occasionally accept a commitment of six months, which must be agreed before being matched to the family.

Can I go away on holidays and miss a visit?

Absolutely! It’s fine to miss up to four visits a year due to holiday. Anymore and we ask you to make up the time with some longer visits to the family. If you are planning on going away on holiday, do let your Family and Volunteer Coordinator as well as the family know.

Can I become a befriender/mentor if I have a criminal record?

Due to the nature of our work, Family Friends is unable to take on volunteers who have convictions (custodial or non-custodial) of less than 10 years old. Driving offences may be exempt from this. Please include all convictions on your application form. If you are unsure and would like to discuss this further please give us a call on 020 8960 9099.

What do you take into consideration when matching a mentor/befriender to a family?

We carefully match families and volunteers based on skills, interests and personality rather than ethnic and cultural background. We also take into consideration your time availability.

Do I have to pay for activities and outings?

You are able to claim back your expenses. The maximum amount that can be claimed per visit (including your travel) is £8 (for Parent Befriending) or £11 (for Child Mentoring). Family Friends has a small budget for volunteers and families to have one ‘treat’ visit every 8 to 12 weeks, where there is a larger budget. We aim to do low cost sustainable activities with families.

How will I be trained?

We presently run 5 14-hour courses a year with a maximum of 14 people per course. They usually take place on two consecutive Saturdays. The course is compulsory for all Family Friends’ volunteers. The training has an interactive format, with teaching, discussion, games, quizzes, case studies and role play. The focus of the course is on ‘active’ listening skills, the role of a befriender and ‘how to empower a family’. We also invite a current volunteer to the training to share their experience. The training is part of our selection process and also an opportunity for volunteers to discover if they wish to be part of Family Friends. Each attendee receives a Volunteer Training Folder containing relevant information and learning tools.

How will I be supported?

Each volunteer is assigned a Family & Volunteer Coordinator who oversees their work. Volunteers are required to contact their Coordinator within 2 days of each weekly visit to give feedback and receive supervision. This is normally done through email or phone conversation, depending on the situation. Face-to-face supervision may be given on occasion.

Volunteers are required to attend informal evening support group meetings every 3 months, where on-going training is offered by expert speakers. The meetings last for approximately 90 minutes and include refreshments and the chance to receive peer-to-peer support.

We send volunteers a monthly newsletter, containing information on activities, courses and relevant resources.