father reading to children on families project volunteers supporting families children's services

A volunteer programme set up to support vulnerable families which allows child protection social workers to devote their time to more complex cases is reaping rewards.

According to a recent evaluation, every pound spent on the Volunteers Supporting Families (VSF) scheme delivers a £2.23 return in terms of improved family outcomes.

A programme that not only saves money but also improves the lives of families and children at risk is like gold dust at a time of austerity, a social worker recruitment crisis and increased demand for services. There is hope that the model, commissioned by Greenwich and Lewisham councils in south London and Southend in Essex, could be adopted nationally.

The scheme is run by national organisation Volunteering Matters. Its chief executive, Oonagh Aitken, says: “I think it could be a national model. It’s a preventative service and is helping to keep children out of the care system – that is its big plus. This has high social impact.”

“Between 2009 and 2015, 1,505 volunteers supported spent just under 4,000 hours 1,301 families and 2,374 children across the three districts,” says Jill Williams, business development manager at Volunteering Matters. “During 2015-16, our volunteers carried out 4,137 family visits and contributed 5,682 hours of volunteering” she adds.


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