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A Survey of befriending services for people with intellectual disabilities in the United Kingdom


TSE Cheuk Yin, et al



Background: Individuals with intellectual disability (ID) may benefit from befriending services, which can help to widen their social networks and reduce social isolation. This study examined the characteristics and challenges encountered by befriending services in the United Kingdom and motivations and experiences of volunteers working with people with ID. Methods: This is a cross-sectional study using two separate online surveys, one for befriending services and one for volunteers. Results: Eight services and 58 volunteers (aged 15 to 72) responded to the survey. The two major issues faced by befriending services were related to funding and recruitment of volunteers. The most common volunteering motivation was “To give something back” (75.9%). While unemployed volunteers were more likely to be motivated by wanting to do something useful with their spare time (OR 3.62, 95% CI 1.09–12.05), young volunteers expressed wanting to gain work experience through volunteering (OR 11.37, 95% CI 1.31–98.59). Most volunteers reported that volunteering had a positive impact on them and would like to continue volunteering in the future. Both positive and negative volunteer experiences were explored. Discussion: Volunteers experienced unique difficulties in interacting with service users with ID due to physical and cognitive barriers. More training and support could be provided to volunteers to help them manage these difficulties and to improve outcomes and experiences of both volunteers and individuals with ID. Policy guidance should be developed on how to set up high-quality befriending services for this group. (Edited publisher abstract)

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