Health and wellbeing

Funding level: Up to £1,000



Waggy Tails Club was started eleven years ago to help young people with special needs/disabilities build confidence and responsibility through working with dogs. The club provides a safe and fun environment once a week for our members to make friends and develop new skills.

Each member is partnered with their own teenage volunteer ‘buddy’, who works with them on various activities from dog training and obedience to crafts and reading skills. Many of our young people form strong bonds with their buddy and see them as a close and important friend.

Without our buddies, Waggy Tails Club could not exist, and providing them with the right training and support is integral to ensuring a strong partnership with a club member.


Our buddies are volunteers of GCSE and A Level age from nearby schools, and of course, they do grow up and many move away to attend university. We want to ensure that not only do we recruit enough buddies each year to continue working with our current members, but that we can grow as a club and provide our services to more young people in our community. As part of this planning for the future, we are undertaking a project to redesign and strengthen our volunteer training programme.

Buddying a young person with disabilities can be difficult, particularly when members have more profound communication and social issues. When recruiting new volunteers, providing them with strong and supportive training when they first join is really important, to ensure that they feel comfortable being a buddy.

We have recently reviewed our training programme, identifying ways in which we can improve the training, and implement materials that better fit our needs. By improving the training we can make sure the buddies are equipped with the right skills to deal with challenging situations, improve retention and build long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.

The key aspects of our new training programme are:

- Tour of Waggy Tails Club and introduction to the different rooms and activities
- An updated Info Pack/Buddy Book for new buddies to keep and refer to
- A training session led by staff and our professional therapists
- Training film providing examples of what it’s like being a buddy, and how best to handle
challenging situations


If successful, the Aviva funding will pay for:

Costs associated with developing our training film
- Writing/scripting the film
- Filming and direction
- Time and content input from our therapists

Producing the new Buddy Info Pack/Book
- Content re-write
- Design and production
- Printing costs

Specially focused therapist and staff-led training sessions to provide new buddies with support
and advice


Our young members love coming to Waggy Tails Club each week - it provides them with a special opportunity to not only improve their confidence and communication, but also to have fun and make friends. Their parents enjoy the chance for a break and having a support network through the club, and tell us how much their child coming to Waggy Tails has positively impacted their family life.

Our buddies enjoy spending time with their young person, and taking on the responsibility and position of trust helps them grow as young adults as they prepare to leave school.

We would love for these benefits to be felt more widely and to reach even more people. This funding from Aviva will enable us to re-design and implement an improved training programme for even more amazing volunteers, making sure they are equipped with the right skills to be an effective buddy to a young person with special needs/disabilities, and create long-lasting, rewarding relationships.

Project Video

Waggy Tails Club

We are so proud of how our volunteers, buddies and dogs work together to make a difference to the lives of our members and their families. To see young people with disabilities grow in confidence and find friendship is why we do what we do!

Location: Normanton Road, South Croydon CR2 7AF, United Kingdom