How to refer someone


What is the aim of the project?

  • To reduce social isolation amongst individuals with learning disabilities.

Our volunteer befrienders work to allow service users to enjoy leisure activities, encouraging choice and independence.


Who is The Buddy Scheme for?

The Buddy Scheme is open to individuals with learning disabilities in the Borough of Kingston aged 18 and over.

We will accept referrals from professionals working in the learning disabilities field and family members of people with learning disabilities, as well as self-referrals.

The Buddy Scheme will prioritise individuals who it is perceived will benefit most from the service: in particular, isolated people. By isolated, we mean people whose social life is inhibited by their impairment, to the extent that they are primarily reliant on carers for their access to community facilities, or that they have a particular struggle to make friends.

Individuals with mild learning disabilities, who could achieve a much higher degree of independence with some support, will also be priorities.

We regret that the following conditions do not, on their own, meet the criteria for membership of the buddy scheme: physical disability; psychiatric disorders; visual or hearing impairment; dementia; cancer; diabetes; epilepsy; HIV; back pain; chronic fatigue syndrome; old age.

Due to the nature of the project we regret that we are unable to support people with profound and complex disabilities. 


What do volunteers do?

Volunteers visit or take trips out with the service-user they are matched with on a one-to-one basis, regularly over a long period of time, and participate in a shared activity with that person. The amount of time they spend together depends on the leisure activity, and so may vary from outing to outing depending on what they agree to do.

The role of a volunteer is purely as a befriender.

Volunteers are not carers, escorts, or support workers. Befrienders are there to improve quality of life for the service-user they visit and not to relieve other services, support or carers in any way.


How often do volunteers visit?

Volunteers visit their buddy at least once a month. This is the minimum we expect of volunteers though many have more time to give. The Scheme is meant to be flexible to fit around the availability of both the volunteer and service-user. For example, if a volunteer visits a service-user once a month, they would not be expected to visit on the first Saturday of every month.


How long does the befriending relationship last?

We ask volunteers for a commitment of a year. Many befriending relationships continue beyond a year, but it is important that service-users are aware that the volunteer may only be available for a year. (Care is taken to ensure that when befriending relationships come to an end, it is done so in a respectful and sensitive manner).


How do I refer someone?

To refer someone who you think will benefit from the project, please complete a referral form. Please complete the form in as much detail as possible, including any information you think may be relevant to a volunteer visiting the service-user. Please also ensure that the service-user is aware that you are making the referral

It is important that as the person referring you are able to be contacted about the referral and provide necessary information about the service-user. If you feel there may be someone more suitable, please ask them to make the referral.

If you wish to discuss a referral before completing a form (or at any time) please ring the Project Co-ordinator on 0208 255 8068.


What happens after I make a referral?

Once a referral is received, the person referred is placed on the waiting list for a volunteer befriender. The Co-ordinator will be in contact to discuss any issues arising from the referral form and to arrange a visit to the service-user to find out more about them so an appropriate match can be made with a volunteer.


How long will the person have to wait for a volunteer?

This depends on the case’s priority, the number of new volunteers joining the project and how long it takes to find a suitable volunteer for a service-user (including availability, interests and any relevant experience a volunteer may need). Please be aware that there may be a long wait for a volunteer. Unfortunately, we are unable to guarantee everyone who is referred to the scheme a volunteer, as there are such a large number of people requiring befrienders.


What happens when a suitable volunteer is found?

The Project Co-ordinator will be in touch with the referrer and service-user to let them know that there is a suitable volunteer available (and ready to begin volunteering), and tell them a little about the person.

If the service-user is happy, then an introduction will be made. The Project Co-ordinator, you (as the person referring) or someone else who knows the service-user well, as well the volunteer and service-user will be present.

The aim of the introduction is for the volunteer and service-user to get to know each-other briefly, and make arrangements for their first independent outing (if both are happy to).

As part of the support offered to volunteers, the Project Co-ordinator will accompany the volunteer on their first outing if requested.

Befriending partnerships are regularly monitored to ensure that both the volunteer and service-user are enjoying the relationship and that there are no problems or issues.