Care in the community

National charity Volunteering Matters and Waltham Forest Council team up to train volunteer mentors to support families with at-risk children, writes Verna Chung

Maria is a volunteering mentor with the project

Maria is a volunteering mentor with the project

Our Volunteers Supporting Families projects have been working for years to deliver support to families where children have been identified as being at risk or in need of extra support.

We have now launched a similar project in Waltham Forest to help families, not by replacing social workers or other professionals, but by making different conversations possible.

Trained and supported volunteers offer advice and encouragement to parents in ways that professionals simply can’t. They provide practical support and encouragement, helping families with budgeting, healthy eating, setting routines, and improving social networks. It’s a model of change that works, and works cost-effectively. Our data shows the children in our Volunteers Supporting Families projects are being stepped down from child protection plans more rapidly than children not receiving volunteer support.

Our volunteers, and the parents they support, continue to impress us with their energy, resilience, patience, and commitment to overcome serious challenges, protect vulnerable children, and rebuild family relationships. Not only do they help the families they support, our volunteers also tell us how much they get back from volunteering too.

Maria, who has been volunteering with us in Greenwich, said: “I definitely feel like I’ve made an impact. Mum appreciates having someone to speak to and says she doesn’t feel alone. As volunteers we offer a different dynamic to the social care support system, a softer side.

“Mum feels like ‘she’s not getting paid to be here so she must really care’ which is true. I don’t do what I do for money hence why I am volunteering my most precious gift, which is time. I do it because I truly believe it’s important and vital for building a more cohesive community.

“I’ve learnt things about myself through volunteering too. I’ve learnt how to communicate even more effectively and how to be patient with myself as well as others.”

Prospective volunteers are invited to contact Volunteering Matters to find out more about getting involved.

To find out more about volunteering with Volunteers Supporting Families project: