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Amplifying Voices

I write this travelling home from London, having spent the day at the National Panel Reimagining Child Protection conference. It was a thought-provoking day. Multiple subjects were covered including critical thinking, challenge and curiosity; understanding the intersectional experiences of black and minoritized children; and intrafamilial child sexual abuse. All crucial topics, but the area that I want to focus on is the messages from the young people who were present. My main takeaway is the importance of our relationships, with them and each other. If you weren’t able to attend I would recommend you watch the very powerful videos from the Newham and Somerset partnerships.

In Wiltshire, we invested in our child and family voice team a couple of years ago and I am very proud of what the team (which is made up exclusively of care experienced adults and a parent with experience of our services) have achieved. Cameron, our youth voice worker, recently won a national award from Frontline for amplifying the voices of care-experienced young people. We also have a family advisory board of parents who wrote open letters to social workers about their experiences. One of my personal highlights is our ‘Meet the Leaders’ session, where representatives from our children in care council, youth council, family advisory board and SEND pioneers come together to ask the Leader of the Council, Lead Member, CEX, Director of Children’s Services and other Directors what we are doing about issues that matter to them, and trust me, they hold us to account very well indeed! At our recent session they talked about the importance of their relationship with their social worker.

It is so rewarding to see the young people grow and achieve great things and I am extremely grateful to them for investing their time to ensure other young people get the same good or better experiences. I also want to share with you how Cora, a 16-year-old young person from Wiltshire, recently presented to 98 councillors at a Full Council meeting about her experiences of the children in care council and the importance of foster carers. Cora was totally unscripted and you can see for yourself the impact of her speech resulting in rapturous applause from the chamber.

So back to today, I can’t end this blog without sharing that I bumped into my first social work team manager from 25 years ago; what a wonderful surprise. I was very fortunate to have such a supportive and encouraging manager, a relationship I firmly believe is the most important at work. She was there for my first highs and lows, something I will always treasure.

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