Mum and befriender admire a baby

Next Volunteer Training Course dates here

1. How does Home Link Family Support select volunteers?
2. How are volunteers screened?
3. What kind of people volunteer?
4. What kind of families do volunteers visit?
5. How are volunteers and families matched?
7. Is the first visit awkward?
8. What kind of support do volunteers get?
9. How much time do volunteers have to give?
10. What about expenses?
11. What do volunteers get out of volunteering?
12. What kind of training do volunteers get?
13. Are volunteers covered by insurance?

14. What if I'm on Benefits?

15. What do Volunteers say about Home Link Family Support?

1. How does Home Link Family Support select volunteers?

There are several stages to the volunteer selection process. Anyone who contacts us about becoming a Befriender will receive an information pack. Once we have received a completed application form, we'll contact you to arrange an informal interview. This is to explain a bit more about the service we provide, what our Befrienders do and information about volunteer training. This is also the time for you to ask any questions about Home Link Family Support and what befriending involves. If both sides are happy, you will then be invited to join the next training course for volunteers. After the training course you will have a one-to-one Post-Training Review meeting with the Project Worker. This is to let you discuss any issues from the training, and for you to tell us the kind of family you would like to be matched with.

When you are matched with a family the co-ordinator will come with you on the first visit. Then you'll be visitng on yourown but we'll be phoning often to check you are ok and we'll meet up with you every 6 weeks for support and supervision.  We are always available if you need a chat on the phone or some information, or just to talk about how things are going.

2. How are volunteers screened?

As you will understand, we have to check you out before we send you into a family’s home. We’ll ask you for three references and will help you to join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme, which provides a background check for working with children. You must also successfully complete our Induction Training course and Post-Training Review. You can withdraw at any time if you feel it's not for you and similarly we can decide if you are not a good fit for us.

3. What kind of people become volunteers?

All kinds, from all walks of life. There are many different reasons for wanting to volunteer with families. Befrienders range from students looking for work experience to mums whose own children have flown the nest and who have some spare time on their hands and retired people who want to use their skills. We welcome men, women, and people from all over the world. We need people who are over 18, positive and non-judgemental. The Young Parents and The Antenatal Services require people with some experience of caring, health, social work or parenting. But for the Family Support Service you only need to be over 18 and you don't need any previous experience or to be a parent - we'll train you thoroughly.

4. What kind of families do volunteers visit?

Families are referred, or refer themselves, to Home Link Family Support for a variety of reasons. The most common are:

  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Coping as a single parent
  • Postnatal depression
  • Coping with twins or several children
  • Settling into a new area
  • Dealing with health issues (either parent or children)

Some families are disadvantaged, some are new to Britain, some are just temporarily having difficulties. Our aim is to help them to be more resilient and confident.

5. How are volunteers and families matched?

You won’t just be sent to the next family on the list. We’ll carefully consider your wishes, your skills and the needs of the family. Various things are taken into consideration when a Befriender and family are matched, including:

  • Where the family and you both live, and how easy it is for you to travel to the family's home; not all Befrienders drive or have use of a car, many use the bus
  • What time of day suits the family for visits and when you are free to visit
  • What type of support the family requires
  • If you have any preference as to which type of family you work with e.g. a family with a baby or very young children, if you dislike dogs or smoking etc

We also think about how volunteers and families are likely to get on together. Some families say they would prefer someone of a similar age, a "granny" figure, someone who is a good listener or a very practical person.

7. Is the first visit awkward?

The first visit can feel a bit strange as neither the family nor volunteer know each other. We expect both you and the family to be feeling nervous but excited. The Project Worker will come with you to introduce the you to the family at a short meeting to break the ice, make sure everyone is happy with the arrangements and discuss what kind of support you will be offering. Sometimes it takes time for the family and you to get to know each other and to build a relationship but both sides receive continuous support in this from the Project Worker.

8. What kind of support do volunteers get?

As a volunteer, you are really important to us and we want you to enjoy it. We are always here for an extra chat about any issues at all. Your assigned Project Worker will meet you every three months and phone you every month. This is to check how the match with the family is developing and if there may be other ways of supporting the family. You can also contact our staff at any time between meetings to discuss anything.

9. How much time do volunteers have to give?

In Midlothian the matches are 2 hrs a week for 6 months

In Edinburgh the matches are 2 hrs a week for up to 12 months

You will have to allow travelling time too. Visits can be arranged at a time and a distance to suit you. Most families want visits during the day on weekdays. However some Volunteers work full time and visit in the early evening. And of course you can take your usual holidays.

10. What about expenses?

You will receive travel (mileage or bus fares)  and out-of-pocket expenses incurred while visiting the family, etc. You are also entitled to claim expenses while taking part in induction or other training. Volunteers receive a contribution of £5 per hour towards the cost of childcare during trainings.

11. What do Volunteers get out of volunteering?

  • People volunteer for various reasons and get different things from it. All volunteers get satisfaction from knowing they are helping a family through a difficult patch. A lot of volunteers say that working with us helped them to get new jobs. Some are thinking about a change in career and are trying something different before deciding what they would like to do.
  • We can help you with CVs and job applications.
  • Others are working towards a qualification in the social-care field and need some practical experience to complement their course. Some simply have spare time each week which they want to use helping people.
  • You'll learn a ,ot about communication, organising your time and interacting with people who are different from yourself.
  • You’ll get regular one-to-one support and supervision.
  • We’ll offer you lots of opportunities for further training in things like first aid, mental health and early literacy. We have social events about four times a year.
  • The feelgood factor!
  • Other benefits of volunteering

12. What kind of training do volunteers get?

We’ve been told that our 18-hour training is excellent. In fact, one volunteer recently said it was "better than my MA".  We’ll tell you all that we expect of you and give you lots of real stories about how it works.

Usually the training takes place once a week, for 4 weeks, generally on Saturdays, or Thursday daytime.

Topics we cover include:  Child Protection, Confidentiality, Building Relationships, Attitudes and Values and Play.

13. Are Volunteers covered by insurance?

All volunteers are covered by Home Link Family Support's insurance. Those who use their car while volunteering must notify their insurance company of this, but this will not affect their premium.

14. What if I'm on Benefits?

There's no limit to the amount of volunteering you can do whilst you are on benefits, click here to read the DWP leaflet

15. What do Volunteers say about Home Link Family Support? click here


Next volunteer training dates here


Volunteer Application form here


Want to chat about our opportunities?  Call Jane Ellis, Volunter Officer 0131 661 0890. Email:  jane.e@homelinkfamilysupport.org