CSV to send more volunteers to help parents cope

Volunteering charity to extend its child protection initiative after Baby P case prompts rise in volunteers keen to work with families

CSV is expanding a programme that sends volunteers to visit the homes of struggling families after the Baby P case led to an increase in offers of help.

Sue Gwaspari, director of part-time volunteering at CSV, said there had been a significant increase in the number of emails sent to CSV asking about volunteering opportunities with families after two men and the mother of Baby P were convicted of causing or allowing the 17-month-old boy's death.

"We can't expect social workers to do everything on their own and then blame them when things go wrong," she said. "It's a bigger job than can be done by just professionals - there's a role for community members too.".

The Volunteers in Child Protection programme will start supporting families in Southend in Essex, and Wales in 2009. It currently runs in Sunderland and the London boroughs of Bromley and Lewisham, with 33 volunteers supporting 29 families nationwide.

The programme began after the case of Victoria Climbié, the girl who was abused and murdered by her guardians in 2000, and matches volunteers with families who have children on the child protection register. Volunteers offer advice, support and friendship to families willing to take part. Families are referred to CSV by their local authorities.

In Bromley, Kent, where the project has been running for two years, all of the families taking part were subsequently taken off the child protection register. None of those still supported by volunteers have been put back on the list.

Gwaspari said volunteers are more welcome than social workers because they are seen as less of a threat.

"Volunteers can visit more often and many live in the same neighbourhoods as the families they are there to help," she said. "Their purpose is different - it is to help families cope better with life, whereas social workers have to focus on specific problems. Social workers have limited time, lots of paperwork, and the high turnover of staff means families do not always get to know them.

"But an untrained individual who is simply taking an interest in you and your family, and has no statutory rights, is much less threatening."

Gwaspari said it also helped to have someone who can keep an eye on things and report to the authority if necessary.


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