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Can there be a social work equivalent of a police community support officer? Corin Williams looks at a scheme that is pioneering work with children on the at-risk register Volunteering has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. From the traditional pursuits of helping out at a homeless shelter or clearing a canal of rubbish, you can now pound the beat as a police community support officer. Volunteering is central to the government's thinking on community and many say that these unsung heroes are keeping the nation stitched together. But should there be an equivalent to a community support officer for child protection social work? One scheme set up by Community Service Volunteers offers just that, and it looks like the idea is beginning to grow. After two pilot projects in Sunderland and Bromley, south London, came to an end last year, the organisation's Volunteering in Child Protection project is being taken on by councils and has generated interest. The principle sounds simple enough volunteers are matched with families who are already in the child protection system on the "at risk" register and help out with day-to-day tasks and lend a sympathetic ear. Putting this into practice has taken a great deal of time and effort in order to avoid the pitfalls of working with some of the most vulnerable people in the country. By the end of March 2007, volunteers in the pilots had worked with 29 families benefiting 102 children. As an ex-social worker, CSV's project manager Jean Pardey (right) has a unique overview. "I worked in a children's department and I was very well aware of issues around child protection," she says.