Friends for Friends, reaching out to people with learning disabilities

 

Can you spare an hour or two each week to bring happiness to a friend and yourself?

Volunteering

We need all sorts of help, including office help, catering, and help with lots of very ordinary things as well as friends for our friends. Many friends start off by coming to events where there are lots of people. We hope that many of our friends will go on to form one-to-one friendships. We will offer training and support. So you won't be on your own!

Because people with a learning disability are often very vulnerable we have to be careful and must collect references and make DBS checks before anyone can have unsupervised access. We do this for everyone, including trustees and committee members. We hope you will understand.

If you are interested in joining or helping please get in touch with us. Leave your name, contact details and a phone number, make sure you say that you are interested in helping, and we will get back to you. We'll also be happy to answer any questions that you have. We have listed answers to the questions that come up most often below.

You can send the information to info@friendsforfriends.org.uk, or leave a message at 020 8869 9228, or write to

Friends for Friends
26 Love Lane
Pinner, HA5 3EF

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I have to complete a police check?
In a group you won’t immediately need a check. However because we are dealing with vulnerable adults, before we can arrange or allow any situation where there is unsupervised contact we will need to have the results of a police check. This costs you nothing but it can take a few weeks. If there are any relevant records we will discuss them with you – it does not necessarily mean saying “no”.

Is training provided?
Yes – we ask volunteer friends to complete two training sessions of about two hours each. They cover basic questions about what you can expect, how to behave, and what learning difficulty is and isn’t. They also give you a chance to ask questions and meet other volunteers.

What are the processes involved (i.e. introductions, the club, getting to know someone etc.)?
Many people come to the 1 to 1 club for a while to get to know us and some of our friends. We may eventually make introductions based on shared interests, how people relate, personal circumstances and that indefinable spark that happens between people. We may also support you at the first one or two meetings between friends. After that we will make ongoing support available. Friends for Friends will stay in touch, and will be available to listen or advise. We may also arrange get-togethers with groups of volunteers so you can get to know each other and share experiences.

Can I work in a group with other volunteers?
Yes. We are hoping to develop individual friendships but that’s not everybody’s cup of tea. There will be scope to help with group activities. Also we intend to set up some groups of volunteer friends to strengthen the mutual support available to those who are developing individual friendships. We hope to organise social activities now and then.

How long will I be volunteering for?
We don’t set any determinate period. Sometimes circumstances change. We do have some friendships that have lasted twenty years, but in other cases people have moved away after a few months.

Will I be responsible for my Friend?
Not much more (but no less) than in any friendship. You are not becoming a legal Guardian or Carer. If you do plan an activity together you will need to think through the safety and comfort aspects for both of you.

What kinds of activities will we be doing?
It’s individual. Some people like going out shopping or for meals. There are friends who do crosswords together and go to the library. Others like Films or the Theatre. Some visit at home. It’s whatever is right for the individuals concerned.  What do you like doing? How much time do you have?

How much time is involved?
It’s not hours and hours every week! An hour or two every couple of weeks is typical but it can be less or more. Some people meet weekly, some monthly, some irregularly.

What will it cost me?
It depends what you do and it doesn’t have to cost anything. If you go out (e.g. to the cinema or pub) we don’t expect you to pay for everything – it’s usually best for the dignity of our friends if they pay their fair share, and residential homes will often help to support residents' activities. There are also schemes that can cut down the cost of cinema and theatre admission when you are accompanying someone. We can pay expenses though we would normally need to agree this in advance.

Can my family and friends be involved?
Yes, that could be great. It’s really good when someone’s circle of friends and experiences is widened in this way.   Of course we would need to do the right checks if other members of your family or circle were to be involved without you being present.

Do my family have to be involved?
No, but we hope they will be supportive of your involvement.

Are there any dangers to working with people with learning disabilities?
There is a small risk every time you cross the road! There aren’t generally any big risks but there can be one or two things to look out for. If there are any special factors you should be informed before taking on the friendship – for instance any relevant medical issues. Medical information is confidential but you are entitled to know anything that might affect your safety, your friend’s safety, or what you can do together. However we would expect you to respect confidentiality.

What kind of lives do the friends lead at the moment? (i.e. how do they spend their time, their daily activities etc.)
It’s individual. You might be surprised at some of the interests and hobbies our friends have. However in many cases they spend several sessions a week in day care centres with other learning disabled people, go home to a residence shared with other learning disabled people, then perhaps go out again to a learning disability club or with a group from the residential home. But of course some people live more independently and others may be at home with parents.

Can we use Facebook with our friends? Can I put photos on Facebook or Flickr?
We don't recommend this. There are serious issues around the sharing of information about vulnerable people on the internet in general and on Facebook in particular. Do you fully understand those issues, and does your friend?

I want to help but I’m not so sure about seeking an individual friendship.
That’s fine. There are group activities and there are lots of things that need doing. They range from making sandwiches to helping in the office to working on the committees.

I want to find a volunteer to befriend someone with a learning disability. Can you allocate someone to provide this service?
We don't allocate anyone! We try to promote the development of genuine friendships. It's not based on who is next in line or on a service provision mentality, but on our understanding of who is likely to get on well.

How do I contact Friends for Friends?   
See above or go to the Contact Details page