We often get asked questions by our volunteers and parents, so we’ve put some handy information together based on the ones we hear most often. If you can’t see what you’re looking for, please contact us at info@family-action.org.uk with your question and we will be happy to help.

For volunteers

1. Why do I have to be over 21 to volunteer?

In our experience, people under 21 still have too much change happening in their life to be able to make the necessary long-term commitment to mentor a young child who needs that stability.

2. Do volunteers have to pay for activities and outings?

We provide expenses to cover activities and transport. Volunteers pay on the day and then claim the money back using our expenses system. All volunteer mentors are entitled to claim these expenses, however many choose not to do so.

3. Can I go on holiday or away for a weekend and miss one of my visits?

Yes. We know that in two years there will be times when you want to go on holiday or away for a weekend. Just let us know your plans in plenty of time.

4. How long does it take to become a volunteer?

It depends. On average we would advise people to expect a four month process, as it takes a little while to go through interview and training, and then some time for the DBS check to be carried out. But it can then take a little longer to find the right match for you and the children we support.

5. Do I have to have a lot of experience with children?

Not necessarily. We are looking for qualities that would make you a good friend. Warmth, patience, empathy, consistency and commitment are the most important of these.

6. Does it have to be every week?

One of the most important things we do is provide regular, consistent and reliable support for children, so it’s important that you meet regularly. However, this is three out of four weekends for most matched friendships.

7. Can I see a child during the week instead of at a weekend?

We ask that volunteers can make time most weekends to meet with the child they support. In some rare cases it may be better for the child to occasionally meet during the week, but most of the time outings happen at the weekend.

8. Can I volunteer for less than two years?

No, we ask that our volunteers commit to a minimum of two years. Evidence shows that the impact of the mentoring relationship is seriously reduced when it is less than two years. It takes a while to form a strong friendship as the foundation on which to build other more long-lasting changes in a child’s life. Many of our volunteers say it is in the second year and beyond that they start to see the real changes happen.

9. Can I bring other people on a visit or introduce the child to people I know?

No. You cannot take anyone else on a visit, as the purpose of the friendship is to provide one-to-one support for children. As safety is a key concern for us, children should not be introduced to people who have not been assessed by Friendship Works.  If you have your own children, they should not come on visits with you or be introduced to your mentee.

10. What if I can’t make it for an outing?

If you’re ill or something urgent comes up, we understand that happens from time to time. Just let the family and your caseworker know, giving as much notice as you are able to.

11. Do volunteers have much to do with the family?

Volunteers will see the parents and it’s important that the parent knows that they are trustworthy and will look after their child. But volunteers are just there to support their child, not the parents too. If children have brothers and sisters who also need support, they can be referred to Friendship Works for their own mentor.

12. What if the child doesn’t like me?

This is a common worry but it’s mainly unfounded. The children we support are very keen to have a volunteer to go out with and they mostly ask for a mentor who is nice and kind. They may be reserved at first, but as you get to know each other better, you will start to see this change.

13. Can the child visit my home?

No. For safeguarding reasons, we ask volunteers not to take their mentees into their own homes. This is for the protection of the children we support and of our volunteers.

14. Can I volunteer if I have physical health problems?

We ask that our volunteers have a reasonable standard of physical health to be able to provide the best all-round support for the child they are matched with. If you have a health problem which may impact on your ability to keep a child safe when you are out and about, then we cannot accept your application.

15. Can I volunteer if I have mental health difficulties?

This would not necessarily rule you out, but you would need to be prepared to discuss your problem and how you manage it in depth during your volunteer interview so we can understand how it may impact on your ability to be a mentor and how mentoring might impact on your mental health.

16. What if I don’t live in London?

We can currently only accept applications from people living in and around London. Although volunteers are keen to make the effort, the travelling time often makes a weekend commitment for two years very difficult. We are however ambitious to grow the Friendship Works service so please do express your interest so that we can contact you if we expand closer to you.

17. Can I volunteer if I have a criminal record?

Having a criminal record would not necessarily mean you couldn’t volunteer with us. It would depend on the nature of the offence, how long ago it happened, and whether it was an isolated incident. We would normally expect a minimum of 3 years to have elapsed. Due to the nature of this role we would not consider anyone with a history of sexual or violent offences, or offences against children. You should note that an enhanced DBS check shows all convictions and cautions.

For care professionals, parents and guardians

1. Is there a charge for your services?

We are a registered charity and do not charge families or children for our services, but we are dependent on voluntary fundraising so if you know a person, company or Trust that can help us financially we would love to hear from them.

2. Is Friendship Works part of Social Services?

No. We are an independent charity.

3. How private is the information I give you?

We do not share information without first asking your permission, unless we feel that your child is at serious and immediate risk of harm.

4. What if there are problems with the match, and I need to speak to someone?

You are assigned a caseworker right at the start of your match, and you will be able to talk to them about anything that you think is a problem. They are friendly and approachable and will be in touch regularly, but do call them to talk about anything you need advice or support on. There is an emergency number if you need it, which is 0207 485 0791.