Posted: 02 October 2019

Children speak out on the issues that affect them

Our latest Good Childhood report has shown that children and young people have become increasingly unhappy since 2009. While most enjoy their childhood, more and more young  people are unhappy with friends, schools and appearance

Only by listening to young people can we help them overcome these barriers of modern childhood. That's what the My Voice project, supported by the #iwill fund and Virgin Money Foundation, aims to do. We caught up with Sarah who works on the programme, encouraging school children to share and talk about the issues that concern them. 

What team do you work in and what is your role?

I am a Youth at Risk practitioner; I facilitate group activities, enabling the voices of children and young people to be heard in the decision-making processes that affect them.

'Everyone has an opportunity to speak.' - year 7 pupil

I also offer intensive one-to-one support, family intervention, group work, conferencing and specialist training in safeguarding and child sexual exploitation (CSE)

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment we're working on the Resilience and Emotional Well-being Group Work Programme, enabling young people to make safer choices, improve quality of life and enhance their transition to adulthood.

Young people share their stories and we address topics including the handling of emotions, diversity, respect, bullying, knife crime, CSE and grooming. 

'I liked how we could express our mental state to the group.' - year 7 pupil

Key to the programme is developing life skills, learning how to stay safe and to manage ways of dealing with feelings and emotions. Young people design their own plan, which is monitored and aims to improve their self-confidence and safety. 

'We can pick people up if they're feeling down.' - year 7 pupil

Relaxation techniques are practised and a healthy living is integrated into the programme. One young person in the group says, 'The best part of the session is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy because it's a time at the end of the session where we can have time to cool down or take some time to think for a minute'. 

What do you enjoy most about your role in the project?

We share power with young people through participation and empowerment, we place young people at the heart of our group work practice, and young people are able to share, learn and help each other together. What's great is they're doing something important whilst having fun at the same time.

Working with and for children where it matters most, on the frontline, we can give every child the greatest possible chance to succeed and change their lifestyle. 

'Resilience means trying again and again.' - year 7 pupil

What are your hopes for the programme?

I hope young people enjoy and engage well in the My Voice group work programme, so they become trained peer mentors within their school and are able to help others with similar issues.

Young people can take part in presentations, give out certificates to other peer mentors, promote the importance of mental health.

'we do lots of fun things including training to become anti-bullying ambassadors' - year 7 pupil

The programme has just completed its first year working with the Year 7 age group and we hope it continues to reach as many pupils as possible. The idea is that young people who have completed the course help deliver the programme for their peers when they move up a year - thus improving resilience and emotional well-being throughout the school. 

Programmes like this do so much to help children and young people but we need those in power to listen to what young people are saying so they can take action to improve children's well-being for the next decade. 

We're asking the Government to introduce a national well-being measure to make sure young people are listened to.

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By Sarah Huckle
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