Give the gift of friendship to children in care this New Year

Date published: 12 January 2020

A children’s charity in Rochdale is in urgent need of volunteers this New Year.

This New Year spare a thought for the 500 children in care in Rochdale. For many, Christmas and New Year is an enjoyable time of year, but for some children, this can be a very lonely experience.

Last year was the first time in four years that more children were admitted into care, than left care. This time of year can be very different.

That’s why registered charity Advocacy Focus, which provides advocacy services for children in care in Rochdale, is appealing for volunteers to help support more children in care homes and foster homes.

Volunteer Manager, Nicola McIntyre, said: “Every day 40 children are placed into local authority care. In Rochdale, the number of children placed into care has risen every year since 2010. We provide a valuable service for these children, helping them to communicate their thoughts and wishes during their time in care and supporting them once they leave care with professional advocacy.”

This year, Advocacy Focus needs volunteers called Independent Visitors, for a unique and rewarding volunteer-run service that befriends and supports children in care.

What is an Independent Visitor?

An Independent Visitor is a volunteer who visits a child in care. Advocacy Focus will pair you with a child, based on shared interests, where you will provide companionship and support. Most often, you can be the only person in a child’s life who is not paid to be there.

Nicola continued: “An Independent Visitor is a vital role. It is a flexible volunteer role which requires the volunteer to visit once a month and even take the child out on day trips. Independent Visitors have not only been shown to increase a child’s happiness in care, but also positively impact upon their decisions once they leave care.

“Often being part of the care system, children can feel isolated and may feel they have no one to personally support and listen to them. Christmas can be an incredibly difficult and lonely time for many of them. This is an opportunity to help shape a child’s life and be a positive influence.”

Statistics show that children in care often have fewer advantages available to them than other children their age, for example, they are less likely to go into higher education and more likely to suffer from mental ill health.

What does it require?

Being an Independent Visitor is an unpaid role, which is a huge part of its appeal to young people, however, expenses are covered. Children who have an Independent Visitor feel happier knowing that they are there of their own accord.

Advocacy Focus says most of its Independent Visitors give around three to four hours per month, which usually equates to one visit or day trip. If you enjoy this role and wish to visit more regularly, more visits and trips may be scheduled on a bespoke basis with Advocacy Focus.

Nicola said: “You don’t need a long list of academic qualifications to be an Independent Visitor, empathy matters more than anything. If you have a passion for helping others and working with children, then this is a great opportunity.”

All volunteers receive an induction to advocacy, training and development, skills development and more.

Advocacy Focus currently has five children waiting for an Independent Visitor in Rochdale. They’d like you to meet Thomas* and Lucy* who are both waiting for an Independent Visitor.

Meet Thomas*

Thomas is a 16-year-old boy in care in. Thomas’ dad left when he was young and he has never had a stable father figure or someone to look up to in his life. Before entering care, Thomas had a difficult and chaotic upbringing but after two years, he is finally starting to feel settled.

He is in a new routine with his new female foster carer, Susan*, and is currently doing very well. Susan is doing a fantastic job with Thomas but Thomas has expressed an interest in having a male influence in his life in the form of an Independent Visitor.

Thomas is a huge football fan and would love to go to local football matches in Rochdale. His dream is to one day attend a Manchester City game. Thomas also loves fishing, playing on his computer and looking for new ideas to become more active.

Meet Lucy*

Lucy is a typical 14-year-old girl; she loves dancing and listening to music. Lucy has been in care since she was two. Sadly after 10 years, her first placement broke down and she was moved into a new placement that she didn’t like. In the last few weeks, Lucy has moved again and has now become much more settled.

Lucy would now love to have an Independent Visitor and get to know someone outside of the care system. She loves watching Love Island and her favourite food is chicken korma. She dreams of one day volunteering abroad.

If you would like to be an Independent Visitor for Thomas, Lucy or other children in care, get in touch with Advocacy Focus.

How do you become an Independent Visitor?

You can apply to become an Independent Visitor on the Advocacy Focus website (, or if you wish to find out more information about this role, speak to Nicola on 0300 323 0965.

*Names have been changed.

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