The voices of children and young people
As the summer holidays finally arrive, and the office is slightly quieter than usual – I thought I would take some time to reflect on the work we do. Whilst many of us take the chance to take a well-deserved holiday and break, the work we do as an organisation for children and their families continues – our services work all year around and simply do not stop for holidays as we help those most in need at their most vulnerable points. It is easy to hope that the services we deliver meet the needs of our children and families, yet it is vital that we continue to reflect on how we improve our services and how we know what we are doing makes a difference. It is easy to get wrapped up in a multitude of data, of performance graphs, looking at numbers and seeing if different things are increasing or decreasing – but we work with people and whether we are making an impact is harder to judge than just raw data. Listening to the voices of the people who use our services and whose lives we are trying to influence is critical in how we develop.
In recent years Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and the multi-agency Safeguarding Children Board have been lucky to work with a young man named Anton. Anton first became involved through Positive Activities for Young People (PAYP) which provides a raft of activities to young people between the ages of 13 and 17 who have had difficulties in their mainstream education. Anton himself would tell you his school attendance was low and that the PAYP scheme brought him out of his shell - but we have also benefitted from Anton’s experiences.
Through PAYP Anton became involved with the Junior LSCB (Safe4Us) and in 2014 he became a lay member of the LSCB. Anton has helped us, as a partnership, to understand the perspective of young people within Redcar and Cleveland. He brings a different voice to the work that we do and contributes a whole wealth of knowledge that we otherwise would miss out on. He is just one example of the way that we listen to children and young people and use their wisdom and experience to influence the decisions that we make. It is easy for the involvement of children and young people to become tokenistic, or to be limited. To use focus groups, or questionnaires, and to minimise and underestimate the difference that young people can make. Through his work with the LSCB Anton has given us much to think about on a wide range of projects including those involving child sexual exploitation to domestic abuse in teenage relationships. He provides a vital link between Safe4Us (Junior LSCB) and the LSCB ensuring that the voices of more children and young people within Redcar and Cleveland are heard.
Anton’s journey has been a rewarding one not only for him but for those who have had the benefit of his support and guidance and those like me who have had the privilege of witnessing this journey.
Anton has certainly ‘come out of his shell’ now and is an example of the benefits of engaging with and supporting young people to achieve their potential. Anton continues to provide invaluable support as a volunteer and has also gained employment as a Youth Support Worker which is testament to his determination and commitment.
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