Working for and with children and young people

As I sat among the panel at our annual young people’s question time a couple of weeks ago, I looked out at a sea of expectant young people and reflected on what I knew about them, their various life experiences and why they wanted to be there. Our Youth Mayor; a confident and skilled emerging politician, alongside our youth council and excellent youth council leaders, managed the event with their usual competence. Our children in care council and youth justice council represented young people for whom life has not always gone smoothly but who are proving that out of difficult circumstances good things can come. Our LGBT group were keen to ensure we understood the challenges they face in simply seeking to be themselves and our range of youth groups and school council reps were clear about the things that matter to them.

As they quizzed us about safeguarding, crime, our spatial strategy for growth, inclusion for all and management of poverty, I was overwhelmed with their passion for life and for the future, plus the huge responsibility we have in enabling them to turn that passion and conviction into real opportunity in their lives. I love my role as director of children’s services but there are days when I wonder why I took it on. Those young people and the thousands like them are the reason why.

It does us good to reflect on where we are and whether our direction of travel is still taking us to the right place! Dave Hill talked in his blog recently about the importance of collaboration and partnership if we are to build real innovation for the future. More of the same is simply not an option in such financially challenging times. We have to innovate if we are to meet the needs of the young hopefuls I saw that night despite our shrinking resources. Doing things differently means letting go of some things in order to pick up others, innovation means taking managed risks and stepping out of our comfort zone because new and creative ways of working may deliver long lasting outcomes that make a difference for good. Collaboration means working together and not always getting our own way. To be gracious about that requires strength of relationships and partnerships and a belief that it is worth it.

I found collaboration this January with a band of fellow sufferers completing dry or nearly dry January! Why did I do it? Well because I believed it would do my overworked liver some good after a well celebrated Christmas and New Year. That belief gave me the grit on a Friday night to open tonic water instead of wine and a real sense of achievement as January ended. ADCS gives us those same opportunities to collaborate and work as a team for a common goal, being stronger in the challenging times because we work together and share a conviction about what matters, wanting to make the lives of children and their families as good as possible. Our different skills, life experiences and areas of influence mean that by working together we can maximise our impact in influencing the future. For me, it means I can look those wonderful young hopefuls in the eye and say that in partnership with others and with the support and expertise of many, I will carry on working for them and with them because it matters so much.

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