Posted: 27 June 2012

Seven months with MPs, practitioners and an amazing range of children

It feels like only yesterday when I started at The Children’s Society and yet my calendar tells me I have been a Policy and Parliamentary Volunteer since November. I’ve been volunteering three days a week, balancing it with two days a week at a secondary school supporting pupils with moderate learning difficulties.

During my time here in the policy team, I worked across all areas – including poverty, disability, early years and asylum - supporting the policy team, which has been quite a challenge!

But it was a challenge I welcomed. I have always been interested in issues affecting children and completed a master's in child studies at Kings’ College London two years ago, but it was predominantly my ten years working as a teaching assistant with young people that led me to seek a career in children's policy.

I couldn't help but become passionate about making the lives of children and young people better when working with some of the most vulnerable on a daily basis, often witnessing how the system and their families have failed them.

Much more than coffee-making

Volunteering here has been a great experience. While some interns get stuck making the coffee and carrying out basic admin tasks, the policy team have trusted me to do some real policy work.

I've been privileged enough to attend an oral evidence session of the Education Select Committee on its inquiry of the child protection system. I visited the houses of parliament with a group of young refugees from our Oxford project and attended an event where Alan Milburn - chair of independent Child Poverty and Social Mobility Commission - gave a speech on social mobility.

I’ve also written briefings, performed research around our projects’ befriending work and contributed to a government consultation on school exclusions.

I also organised the annual early years community of practice event which this year had a policy focus and a keynote speech from the Guardian's columnist Polly Toynbee.

Meeting young asylum-seekers

The greatest challenge has been a consultation with 33 unaccompanied young people from three of our projects on their experiences of the asylum process. We used a number of interactive, practical and fun activities to gather their views and ideas on how the process could be improved.

I then wrote a report - which will be released in July - about the findings which will inform a review the UK Border Agency are doing of the applicant’s journey through the asylum process and will also be shared with parliamentarians.

During my time here, the team have let me get my teeth into the work they do and have given me the opportunity to gain lots of experience across a wide range of areas which I know will really help me to find a job in policy in the future.

To say that I have really enjoyed my time here would be an understatement and I hope that I will be lucky enough to work in a team as lovely as this again sometime soon.

By Zeina Whalley, Policy and Parliamentary Volunteer

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By Zeina Whalley - Policy team

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