An Independent Visitor, also known as an IV, is a trained volunteer who is matched with a care-experienced child or young person to befriend them and act as a positive role-model. They build trusting, positive relationships with them over time. Many care-experienced children and the professionals that support them, remain unaware of this legal entitlement that was introduced in the Children Act 1989. The National Independent Visitor Network (NIVN) is a network of statutory befriending services working across England and Wales to ensure more children can access their legal right to an IV. In June 2020 we launched the Right Friend Campaign calling for a minimum of 10% of all children in care to be matched with an IV by 2022 and for this right to be extended to care leavers.
NIVN has published two previous data reports in 2016 and 2019 to measure access rates to IVs in England. The 2022 Data Report sets out findings from our latest Freedom of Information investigation on the extent of current IV provision across England and for the first time, Wales. The report also draws on best practice examples and learning from regional and national activity to make recommendations on improving and sustaining the reach, consistency and quality of IV services.
The government’s Final Report of the review of children’s social care in England, highlights the vital role an IV can play as part of a child’s network of loving relationships. The Data Report welcomes this and the review’s recommendation that the IV role should be extended to all young people who leave the care system up the age of 25-years.
The report includes a number of important recommendations arising from the findings from the Freedom of Information requests and our Right Friend campaign. As a network we recognise we have a central role in helping to ensure more care-experienced children and young people can experience a long-term relationship with an IV in England and Wales. Going forward we will work with:
- local authorities to make sure that sufficient resources are allocated to IV services so that every child and young person can be matched if they so choose.
- the Children’s Commissioners of England and Wales to address immediate gaps in provision with local authorities that do not have an IV service or an active offer in place
- Ofsted to ensure that the availability and quality of IV services is included in inspections
- academic and research bodies to increase learning and better evidence the impact of the IV relationship.