About Us
General Information We aim to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities and their carers through volunteer befriending.   We are a registered charity (No. SC030132) and a Company Ltd by Guarantee (SC297772). We were founded by carers in Berwickshire in 1990 and now cover the whole of the Scottish Borders  (Berwickshire, Central Borders, Roxburgh and Tweeddale): click here for a history timeline. We provide a mixture of long-term and short-term 1:1 and group befriending for children (aged 8-16), young people (aged 16-25) and adults, and support up to 250  befriending links each year. Our Board of Directors and Branch Committees are made up of elected people with learning disabilities, volunteers and family and professional carers. A Project Co-ordinator manages the four Branch Co-ordinators who deliver the service: registering people with learning disabilities, recruiting, checking and training volunteers and creating and supporting befriending links and groups. We have the Queens Award for Voluntary Service and the Approved Provider Standard for Befriending Services. Anyone with learning disabilities can access our services, which are free apart from contributions towards activity and travel costs. Our services are funded by Trusts, Foundations, Scottish Borders Council and the Scottish Government (see Our Funders). The Need We Meet People with learning disabilities have a lifelong condition that affects their development and means they need help to understand information, learn skills and live independently. Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome and autism are common causes. Only 1/3rd of people with learning disabilities have a close friend, over 30% have no contact with friends at all and only 2% get married. There are also issues around safety, abuse and bullying for people with learning disabilities socialising on their own in the community. Befriending helps our service users overcome these issues so they can pursue interests, participate in community activities, make choices, gain skills and develop independence. This makes people happier and improves their confidence, self-esteem, life skills and physical wellbeing.  Family carers of people with learning disabilities have a caring role which can carry on into their own old age. Befriending makes family life more sustainable by providing high quality respite. Our Services We provide Group and 1:1 Befriending for children (aged 8-16), young people (aged 16-25) and adults. 1:1 links Service users are matched with volunteers who share their interests, are of a similar age and can meet up with them regularly.  Activities take place in the community, for example going to the cinema, local events, walks, shopping, going for coffee, arts & crafts, golf, swimming or football. We aim for long term relationships, with links often lasting 5-10 years. Befriending Groups Groups usually have equal numbers of volunteers and people with learning disabilities  and all the members are as close in age to each other as possible. Group members decide what they want to do, and as well as fun social and leisure activities, they often do personal development projects involving, music, art, drama and outward bound activities. The large numbers of volunteers involved mean the groups operate just like mainstream community or youth groups. Adults We aim to further the ideals of The Keys To Life. Children and young people There is a focus on personal development at key times of transition and furthering the ideals of Getting It Right For Every Child.  Around 35 of the 125 children and young people we work with are on the autistic spectrum. We recruit around 50 volunteers from schools and Borders College annually. Outcomes We   produce   a   wide   range   of   evaluation   material .   Our   last   Impact   Report    on   our   services found that: 93% of children, young people and adults with learning disabilities told us we had helped make them happier. o 96% reported their confidence had improved o 89% had greater self-esteem o 86% said their lifeskills had developed o 68% had greater physical wellbeing. 72% of family carers told us they had improved wellbeing, had more opportunities to enjoy a life outside of their caring role and were better able to sustain that role. 92% of our volunteers said they were now more aware of learning disabilities, and more confident in forming relationships with people with learning disabilities. Our People Board Members: Kenneth Wood (Convenor/Volunteer) Lizi Irvine (Vice-Convenor/Volunteer) Sally Scott-Aiton (Treasurer/Volunteer) Craig Douglas (Family Carer) Megan Bilsland (Service user) Charmian Ledsham (Brothers of Charity) Staff: see Branches & Contact Us Each branch has a Branch Co-ordinator, assisted and advised by their Branch Committee and an assistant. They concentrate on registering service users, recruiting, checking and training volunteers and creating and supporting the befriending links. The Branch Co-ordinators are managed by the Project Co-ordinator, who also (with the Project Administrator) deals with all non service-delivery tasks, such as development, planning, fundraising and financial administration. Volunteers  see Volunteering We have around 200 volunteers drawn from all walks of life and including around 70 from local high schools and Borders College. In the survey for our recent Impact Report, 100% of our volunteers said they would recommend volunteering with Interest Link to their friends.