Independent Visitor provision across Wales will be informed by a new set of national practice standards and guidance, thanks to a project led by NYAS Cymru and commissioned by the Welsh Government.

The standards and guidance for appointing Independent Visitors (IVs) for care experienced children and young people have been developed by NYAS Cymru, in consultation with a broad range of stakeholders and following a Wales-wide review of IV practice and provision. The review highlighted widespread inconsistency in the provision of IVs, from one local authority to another.

Independent Visitors are volunteers who have no formal connections with social services. Their role is to visit, advise and befriend children or young people who are care experienced, where it is felt that having an IV would be in their best interests.

Local authorities have a duty to consider the appointment of an IV for every care experienced child or young person, if the appointment is deemed to be in the child’s best interests and the child or young person consents.

Currently, in Wales suitable IVs are recruited, trained and supported by one of three voluntary organisations and, in many cases, provided alongside a larger contact for independent professional advocacy services.

The new standards and guidance document developed by NYAS Cymru, one of the largest providers of independent advocacy services and IVs in Wales, is being made available to all local authority Heads of Children’s Services across Wales. The document includes a set of standards required for providers and local authorities, along with a practice guide for implementing these standards. It also incorporates a toolkit for eligibility assessment, along with a commissioning framework for the provision of IV services. All are designed to support good quality, consistent IV services and are the result of input and steer from care experienced young people, independent visitor service co-ordinators, IVs, social workers and managers, independent reviewing officers, foster carers and local authority commissioning managers.

NYAS Cymru will officially launch the practice standards and guidance to an audience of stakeholders at an event in March 2020. The leading children’s rights charity intends to use the event to set out future ambitions for IV services in Wales.

NYAS Cymru, National Executive Director, Sharon Lovell MBE said, “It’s so important that we get the standard of IV provision right in Wales – for the benefit of those children and young people for whom an IV is the one consistent adult in their lives.

“Our research found that a large percentage of children and young people who could be eligible for support don’t know about their entitlement to IV support or how to access the service. Many of the professionals who work with these vulnerable children and young people don’t understand the IV legislation. We hope the new standards and guidance, including the assessment toolkit and commissioning framework will address this critical issue.

“But standards mean nothing if they aren’t implemented and so, we’re working with the Welsh Government to put a requirement in place that means local authorities will have to publish their plans for commissioning IV services. This level of transparency will help to ensure change takes place. We’ll also be seeking to promote more radical change to IV provision going forward and will share our ambitions at the launch event.

“NYAS Cymru would like to thank all of the organisations and individuals who engaged with and cooperated in developing the Practice Standards and Guidance. In particular, we want to recognise the young people who contributed, without their help NYAS Cymru could not have carried out this important work. We know IVs make a huge difference by introducing a trusted adult into the lives of vulnerable children and young people. ”

The full National Practice Standards and Guidance for the Provision of Independent Visitors (IV) document can be viewed here