Innovative 'befriending' scheme helping children prior to assessment | Our latest updates

Innovative 'befriending' scheme helping children prior to assessment

Mum on phone and child

An innovative 'befriending' scheme where volunteers make ‘check in calls’ to families of children waiting for neuro-developmental assessments is proving a success.

When Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Children’s Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Team receive referrals for children with a suspected neuro-developmental disorder, they are offered an assessment for Autism or ADHD, or both. However, due to a significant national increase in referrals of children for assessment, there is a lengthy wait. The service wanted to help children and families while they waited.

A number of engagement activities and co-production events, whereby patients and their families help develop services, delivered by the Trust’s Children and Young People (CYP) Participation and Co-Production Team, concluded that families want to know what services are out there. They want to know what they can access with or without a diagnosis, and gave a list of the types of challenges they would like to get help with including education, social opportunities, financial needs and emotional support. Children and Young people worked in partnership with the Participation team to create a virtual resource that collated the range of support organisations and services that families can access for free, and that resource is now shared with families in communications from Children’s Services.

Families also told NHFT that they wanted reassurance that their child was on a waiting list, and that sometimes the great range of services available to access can be overwhelming, so the service approached the Trust Volunteer team and asked for their help.

The Volunteer team were already facilitating a team of volunteers contacting patients open to NHFT services via the ‘Befriending’ team. This successful project has already proven valuable to patients and service users. Some of the experienced volunteers were keen to support the CYP Autism and ADHD team too by calling families, providing a listening ear, and using the resource pack to help parents or carers consider what they might find useful while they wait for assessment.

The initiative has been welcomed by young people and their families, with calls made to over 280 families already. Nearly half of those contacted were signposted to local support services.

 Jo Fletcher, NHFT’s Quality Assurance Lead for CYP Services, said: “The Trust’s volunteer team set up the Befriending Service during the Covid pandemic and it’s continued to be a positive way to support people who may be feeling lonely or isolated. We have some amazing volunteers who have joined our team in Children’s services to talk to parents or carers of children waiting for assessment. It’s really important to families facing a long wait to know that they are definitely on a waiting list and that help is available. Many of the children who are referred experience difficulties accessing activities that their peers manage, including social activity, some aspects of education and family events. The volunteers are not medical professionals, rather they are people that just want to connect and offer some help; so they will talk through whatever the family would like and can suggest services that are immediately available to support them.”

One volunteer, named Yvonne, said: “I am part of the wonderful Befriending team. A few months ago, we were asked if anyone was able to take on some extra calls for the ADHD/ASD team. I jumped at the chance as it is an area I am interested in. I telephone the parents or carers of children on the waiting list for assessment; I reassure them that their child has not been forgotten and that they will be assessed as soon as possible. I can also point them in the right direction to get advice and support while they are waiting. Those I call seem really pleased when I get in touch; they like to talk about their child and discuss how they are coping in school, at home and their day-to-day living.” 

To find out more about NHFT’s Befriending Service or volunteering in general visit

Visit the NHFT’s newly-launched iDiscover website for a range of activities, for young people aged under 25, including workshops, courses, webinars and more, covering a range of themes including managing stress and anxiety, healthy lifestyles and self-care, staying well at school or work, and creative activities to support wellbeing. Visit

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