A special service which helps children give evidence in court is appealing for volunteers to step forward.
The Young Witness Service (YWS), provided by the NSPCC, Northern Ireland, with funding support from the Department of Justice, offers independent and confidential support and assistance to children and young people under 18 years old who have to attend court as witnesses.
Some 750 young people, all alleged victims or witnesses to crime, are helped every year in Northern Ireland.
The NSPCC is currently seeking more volunteers to help them deliver this vital service.
The Young Witness Service (YWS) attracts volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. Geraldine Kelley is originally from Derry although she spent most of her teaching career in England.
Having returned to her native city, she has enthusiastically taken up the YWS case.
“I encountered the Young Witness Service through the weekly email from U3A – the University of the 3rd Age, is a resource for retired people,” she explains.
“It sounded intriguing and definitely outside my experience and comfort-zone. It is obviously of huge assistance to the young people involved in the court systems as victims or witnesses and I wanted to do something that wasn’t just about me enjoying myself. I felt I could learn something new, stretch myself and contribute as long as possible as an active member of the community.”
Geraldine applied, was interviewed and selected for YWS training.
“Our training sessions were very intense,” she said. “My fellow volunteers were a great bunch and we were encouraged to ask questions and discuss the issues involved. We heard from many different professionals who work alongside the NSPCC in the justice system – social workers, court officials, barristers, police, experts in child psychology, a judge etc; as well as acting volunteers who reassured us and gave excellent insights into the every-day practicalities of being in a court or a video-link room with a young person.”
“I want to put into practise what we’ve learned and I want to use my existing skills and experience with young people in this new and challenging way.
“Like most people, I expect, I want to carry on being useful so I would really encourage others to look at the service, talk to the approachable staff, have a think and then follow your instincts – you will be doing something really engaging and incredibly worth-while.”
The mother of a child who was helped by YWS sums up the value of this vital work. I found this service a complete life-saver.
“We received invaluable advice and reassurance for our son which left us confident about him having to appear in court and give evidence.
“I don’t know how we would have got through the process without the help of the NSPCC.”
If, like Geraldine, you want to give to your community and children and young people in general then volunteering with the Young Witness Service may be the role for you.
To find out more contact Volunteer Coordinator, Billy Eagleson, on 028 9448 7568 or firstname.lastname@example.org