‘I wanted to help others like me’ - young people praised for work to shape services in pandemic
PUBLISHED: 09:17 10 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:47 10 July 2020
Norfolk’s young people have been praised for their bravery and contribution to society during the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the last few months between 500 and 750 young people from across the county have been directly engaged in participation groups to help improve the way local services are developed.
The groups, which have been regularly meeting online, include Norfolk’s seven Youth Advisory Boards (YABS), Norfolk Young Carers Forum (NYCF) and Norfolk’s In Care Council (NiCC).
Representatives from the youth organisations have also formed a brand new online consultation group, which is the first step to a more formal Young People’s Advisory Group (YPAG).
The aim of the YPAG is to ensure the voice of young people is heard loud and clear in the development of services for those under 25.
The group has been participating in weekly Zoom meetings with Norfolk County Council, during which it has made recommendations on a range of subjects including how schools can ease the return to educational settings, a new online mental wellbeing community and a survey on their experiences of lockdown.
One of those to take part is Charlotte, 17, from West Norfolk, who has organised a mental health event for young people while studying at college and caring for her younger sister who has multiple disabilities.
She said: “I help with cooking and cleaning and it’s my job to make sure my sister gets her medication and gets out of the house for some exercise.”
Charlotte said she got involved with the young carers group after they gave a talk at her school.
“I was finding no-one really understood what I was going through – either they had little or no understanding or they were going to the other extreme and treating me like I was made of glass.
“I wanted to help other people like me. My proudest moment was helping to organise a mental health event, because I could really see how much stress affects young people,” she said.
Chris Robson, chairman of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership, said: “I am so inspired by everything I am hearing and reading about the efforts of young people.
“The stories here clearly show the huge role they play both informally in supporting each other but also in shaping their own destinies in Norfolk by working more formally with organisations to give their insight into how we can best develop our services and make them the most effective they possibly can be for those who need them.
“But I do also want to issue a reminder that we’re still here to offer support. Lockdown may be gradually easing but times are still far from normal and young people should feel confident in reaching out for help if they need it. And if you feel unsafe or scared at home please feel confident to call for help.”
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Other young people highlighted for their work include 17-year-old Ben, from Norwich, who has chaired a meeting with other young people where they talk to children’s services to lead improvements. He has also helped build a website and put together a monthly newsletter on behalf of NiCC.
And 13-year-old Briony, from Great Yarmouth, has become involved with the NiCC, going to monthly, and virtual, meetings.
Briony, who aspires to be a drama teacher and wants to help sick animals, said: “I really like it because I am able to make a change to make being in care better for other children and young people. I like being able to use my voice for something good and making a change.”
The county council praised Norfolk’s population of approximately 147,000 children and adolescents aged between 10 and 25, who they say have coped with huge changes to their daily routines and activities and dealing with lockdown restrictions.
• Children feeling unsafe or scared at home can contact Norfolk County Council on 0344 800 8029 or the NSPCC’s Childline on 0800 1111 or log on to www.childline.org.uk.
‘Adults often believe they know what young people think’
Making new friends and ensuring the voice of young people is heard is what one teenager enjoys most about being a member of Breckland Youth Advisory Board (YAB).
Aimee, 16, first joined the YAB in 2018 after she helped with an anti-bullying group in her high school.
Since then she has gone on trips to Dublin and Amsterdam where she learnt about sexual health education.
Aimee said: “I’ve been to Dublin for the World Anti-Bullying Forum, where I got up and spoke. Adults often believe they know what young people think and it was great to actually stand up and speak and help to make our voice heard.
“I really like working with young people from other schools that I wouldn’t otherwise get to know. I’ve made great new friends from all over the county which has been brilliant.
“I’ve had so many opportunities, it’s given me confidence and I can now do things like public speaking that I couldn’t before.”
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