Care-experienced young people share the power of participation
As part of our Bright Spots programme which aims to improve the wellbeing of children and young people in care, we host regular peer-learning events for those working in the sector to come together and share ideas.
Our latest event (3 August 2017) focused on youth participation and we were delighted to have Stephen Woodford, Rights and Participation Officer at the Isle of Wight Council and three care-experienced young people, Jackie, Rhys and Lizzie, speaking about some of the excellent participation work they run there.
Participation gives young people in care the opportunity to have a say in decisions affecting their lives and makes a real difference to both them and other young people. In the Isle of Wight there are many participation projects available to young people through a programme called HYPE (Hearing Young People’s Experiences).
Stephen Woodford said: “It’s so important to involve young people in everything we do, and giving them the power to say what they want to say about their lives in their own words ensures they are truly listened to.
“Involvement in our participation activities has had a huge impact on the young people; I’ve seen their personal confidence grow hugely and they’re learning skills they’ll use for life.”
Jackie and Rhys are both involved in HYPE. Jackie said: “I feel like my confidence has grown from being involved in participation. A year ago I wouldn't have been able to stand up and speak in front of all these people as I have done today.”
Rhys added: “The projects enable young people’s voices to be projected in a way that can be really heard. You can build rapport with other people in care; you’ve been through some of the same things so you can help each other.”
HYPE includes the following projects:
- Have a Say Week – free activities to help build relationships between the council and young people and their carers. Following 2016’s event, young people expressed an interest in joining participation projects and had the chance to follow up on issues they wanted to discuss, whilst carers said they appreciated the opportunity to speak directly to senior managers
- Come Dine With Us – monthly cookery sessions in which young people set a menu, purchase ingredients, cook and eat together. The sessions have increased the young people’s confidence, and taught them about cooking, budgeting and healthy eating
- Interviews and Training – for any recruitment of staff within the children’s services team, a young person is invited to be on the interview panel. This helps to build young people’s interview skills and confidence, and gives them a say on who will be involved in their care. The success of this has led to other council services requesting young people to support their recruitment
- Apprenticeship Programme – young people are hired as apprentices at the council and work towards a qualification. For example, Lizzie works as team administrator and often meets with young people in care who may be feeling upset or frustrated about their situation. She says: “My experiences of being in care mean that I can relate to them and I’m inspired to help them. I know what they’ve been through and they listen to me because I understand.”
The Isle of Wight Council also provides events for children with additional needs, and all projects are continually improved with young people’s feedback.
The council was one of the local authorities involved in our Bright Spots programme, running our survey on wellbeing for children and young people in care.
If you’d like to know more about the programme or join us for future peer-learning events, please sign up to our newsletter.
You can also find out more about Coram Voice’s participation work here.