Could you help and support a young person?

Volunteers who can speak up for and support young people are being sought by Somerset County Council.

Adults are needed across the County to give a helping hand to children and young people who may need a bit of extra support by becoming advocates or ‘independent visitors’ through the Council’s Route 1 advocacy service.

Advocates offer one-to-one support and advice to children and young people who are in the care of the Local Authority, or who are entitled to receive its services. Advocates empower them and ensure their voices are heard by those making decisions which affect them.

They speak up for them, make them aware of their rights, listen to them and represent their views and feelings.

The Independent Visitor role is about befriending and spending time with a young person in the Council’s care. Whether it’s going for a coffee and a chat, the theatre or a football match, they make the most of shared interests and can make a massive difference to a young life.

The link between the visitor and the young person usually continues beyond care so they benefit from the support of an independent person as they move into adulthood. The role is more structured and longer term.

“I feel I have given something back to the community by trying to help a young person. I also find it rewarding. I’ve learnt so much,” said a Route1 volunteer.

“I think that every young person should have at least one person who they feel is interested in them just for who they are, not because of professional duties,” said a young person supported by a Route 1 independent visitor.

Councillor David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council said: “Volunteering with Route 1 will help benefit children and young people across Somerset and can be arranged to suit your availability.

“Independent Visitors especially are highly valued by the young people as they may be the only person involved in their lives who is not paid to be there. There are plenty of fascinating and inspiring opportunities if you volunteer with Route 1, which can bring real benefits to the lives of vulnerable children and young people.”

Independent visitors and advocates attend a comprehensive training programme. Up to six training events can be run for new volunteers each year. Each course involves five days spread over five weeks (one day per week).

Applications are welcome at any time during the year, and expenses are paid.

For more information or to apply, click on www.route1advocacy.co.uk

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For further information, please contact the Press Office on 01823 355020 or email pressoffice@somerset.gov.uk