Information Booklet for Befrienders

Top tips and advice for Parent Champion Befrienders.

Firstly, a big thank you

Thank you for volunteering to help families and their little ones.

We know how much our Befrienders mean to mums and carers. How? Because they've been telling us:

"Having a reason to come out, not just about baby things, but meeting up with another adult and integrating the children at the same time, opened doors." Michelle, local Mum.

By introducing them to Lambeth early years services, you're making a real difference to them and their children's lives. 

What do Parent Champion Befrienders do?

Local parents developed our Befrienders scheme in 2019. 

They wanted to support isolated mums/carers by helping them to engage with Lambeth early years services, such as children centres and LEAP activities. 

You'll be supporting parents in lots of helpful ways: 

  • Widening their knowledge of early years activities and services
  • Raising their confidence
  • Encouraging them to attend early years settings
  • Being a friendly face

Things you won't be doing

It's also important to know what your limits are — for everyone's health and wellbeing.

We don't expect you to:

  • do activities that are the responsibility of the parent 
  • give advice
  • make home visits
  • meet up on an evening or weekend 
  • provide transport, or use a parent's transport 
  • advocate on behalf of the parent
  • provide ongoing interpretation

How does a parent request a Parent Champion Befriender?

When a professional identifies a parent who feels isolated, they will: 

Examples of referring professionals are midwives, health visitors, and the Better Start workers at children's centres.

If the parent would like a Befriender, the professional will help them fill in a referral form and send it to the Parent Champion Team.

Being matched with a parent

The Befriending Coordinator will contact you when they match you with a parent.

You will discuss the type of support the parent will need — and if you feel you can offer that support.

If you are comfortable with the match, we will give you the following information:

  • the referrer, eg midwife
  • age of the child/ren, eg 6 months old
  • location in the LEAP area, eg Stockwell
  • nearest children's centre, eg Loughborough
  • main language if not English, eg Spanish
  • needs of the parent, eg register with a children's centre, support with registration and attendance of activities, support with eaning etc.

Breaking the Ice

Your first contact with your Befriendee will be a gentle introduciton where you get to know each other.

It's useful to introduce yourself as their ‘Parent Champion Befriender’. 

Start by explaining the role to them:

  • Contact once a fortnight
  • Share info about early years activities
  • Attend early years activities together

Think about how you will introduce yourself. You could talk about:

  • How long you've been a Parent Champion
  • How long you've lived in the area
  • The age of your child/ren
  • What early years activities you like going to and why
  • Something you have in common, eg the same language, origins, culture or religion

What questions will you ask them?

  • Have they heard of LEAP?
  • Do they know where their local children's centre is?
  • Have they been to any activities?
  • Are there any events they would like to go to?
  • How is their child/ren getting on?
  • What would they like to get out of having a Befriender?

Ask if they have any questions about Befriending, or yourself.

What are the next steps? Next contact? is there any information you can send them straight away?

Getting to know each other

  1. Learn about them and their baby
  2. Ask about their circumstances, and their experience of being a mother
  3. What are the needs of the parent and their baby?
  4. Who are the important people in their lives and which services do they attend with their child?
  5. Only reveal as much about yourself as you feel comfortable

Supporting attendance at early years activities

Together with the parent, and your Coordinator, you will reflect on the best services and activities for the family.

Some parents will need encouragement and support to attend early years activities and services:

  • Share the benefits of attending early years activities for babies and parents
  • Talk about your own experiences
  • Start simple, eg meet in a local park or show the parent their local children's centre on a quiet day 
  • Accompany parents to sessions and introduce them to staff you know

Places you can find services and activities

Emergency support and safeguarding

Always talk to your Coordinator if your Befriendee needs emergency support or if you have a safeguarding concern.

Find examples of emergency support on our website.

Endings

A Befriending relationship usually lasts around 3 months. It's good to talk about this with your Befriendee at the beginning of your relationship.

The Befriending ends when they feel comfortable attending early years activities you have jointly selected.

It's important to plan the ending with your Coordinator. Give your Befriendee as much notice as possible, ideally 1 month.

Supervision and support

Use your coordinator as a source of support and information to discuss anything related to the Befriending.

You can expect:

  • One-to-oness with your Coordinator, fortnightly at the beginning of the Befriending
  • Group catch-ups every 6 weeks

You can also call, email, text or Whatsapp your Coordinator any time during the working week.

If you have any concerns related to the parent or their child, please discuss them with your Coordinator.

If your concern is about safeguarding, you must contact your Coordinator immediately.

Level of commitment

Parents eligible for Befriending are often isolated and vulnerable. Having a Befriender means a lot to them. 

Before taking on this responsibility, please make sure you can commit to:

  • contact once every 2 weeks
  • accompanying Befriendees to early years sessions at times you are mutually available
  • being reliable and on time — avoid cancelling appointments unless you have to
  • communicating clearly — be clear about what you can and can’t do, don’t over promise
  • giving one month’s notice if you need to stop Befriending

Thank you again for making such a wonderful commitment.

The Parent Champion Team.

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