A BEFRIENDING project is being rolled out in Clackmannanshire to support young people struggling with social or emotional issues.

The Alloa branch of national charity Volunteering Matters is looking to recruit individuals to help improve the life chances of those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.

The Clackmannanshire Befriending Project will train and support volunteers from the area who can act as reliable, trusting and positive role models, matching them up with a young person aged eight to 18.

John Ross Brown is a volunteer manager at Volunteering Matters, and is based in Alloa. His journey began with the organisation as a befriender in the North Lanarkshire Befriender Project.

He believes the scheme can make a difference to young people who may been dealing with issues at home, in school, or who experience poverty-related problems.

John said: "It can have a huge impact; because our volunteers are not paid to do this that actually makes a huge difference because the kids know that their volunteer is choosing to spend time with them, and they're not under any obligation to do so – they're not a family member, they're not a teacher, it's someone who is outside the normal circle.

"We've done quite a lot of research, because we've been trying to bring this here for almost two years, so we've had to do quite a bit of funding applications.

"One in four kids locally are living in poverty, 40 per cent of schools pupils in Clackmannanshire live in the top three most deprived areas and we know from feedback from teachers and social workers that there are dozens of kids who are really struggling socially and emotionally.

"Clackmannanshire is quite a similar area to North Lanarkshire in terms of the demographics, plus rolled in with the fact that there is no other service like that here.

"We're the first people who are doing it and we already have a base here, we already have other projects here, so it made sense that this would be the next place to roll it out.

"And, the idea is that this is a three-year project, we're committed to this and hope that it will become a permanent project in the local area if it is needed and we're hoping that we will expand it as well, to other areas of Forth Valley."

Volunteers should be able to give two to three hours to a youngster every fortnight, to spend time time with them doing activities within the community.

Becoming a befriender can bring great benefits to volunteers and for John, it increased his confidence, gave him something fun to do and led him into a career in the third sector.

Volunteers should be able to commit to the programme for 12 months, have good communication skills and enjoy working with young people.

For more information on the project, which is supported by The RS Macdonald Charitable Trust, The Gannochy Trust and The Robertson Trust, call Volunteering Matters on 01259 928088.