Thursday, 13 December 2012

Young People's Participation at Brook - our journey so far

Brook is on an exciting journey to become the best we can possibly be at involving young people. I am completely committed to young people participating at every single level.  It is essential that a young people's organisation is strongly driven and influenced by young people who we are working with and for. As a primary aged girl in key stage one said when I worked at NCB and was preparing implementation guidance on participation for the then Department for Children Schools and Families 'its more than just listening, you have to listen and then you have to act'.

Having moved from a Network of 16 charities to a single unified organisation, with strong support from the board of trustees, we are aiming to build on the best practice that already existed to create a positive and open culture of participation and youth leadership.

We have been making lots of progress over recent years with youth led campaigning creating the Big Issues Don't have to be a Big Deal campaign about body image and www.sexpositive.org.uk which campaigns for 21st Century SRE. We have young trustees on the board, peer educators, advisors, young people involved in recruitment of staff at all levels, mystery shoppers and so on so there was already an enormous amount of work to build on.

From a strong starting point, we prioritised fundraising to establish a lead participation role within Brook to lead and champion our participation work, so we were absolutely delighted to receive funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to do just that.

One of the young women volunteering in Oldham spoke at our Annual General Meeting. Tara has agreed to have her speech published here;

“Before starting Brook, I was a stay at home mum and losing all confidence to go back to college or even work. I was really struggling to think what I wanted to do with my life. Then I saw a poster for Brook advertising that they wanted volunteers to work on a campaign. As soon as I seen it straight away I was eager to apply. I thought it was suitable as it involved working with young people and with me being a young mum I thought I could be good at giving advice. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do in life but volunteering for Brook has really boosted my confidence again and has helped me want to do something in life. Even though it’s early days with Brook we have a lot of excitement coming our way. We are currently working on our social action project which is about bullying. We will be running a café and asking the public about what bullying means to them and what affects it can have on people. Also we just want to raise people’s awareness on bullying. Volunteering for Brook has helped me work really well in a team and we are all really looking forward to start our project.”

And Naomi's AGM speech about participation and her work at Brook is below;

"Hi, I’m Naomi Sheppard and I’m the Participation Lead for Brook.

"Having become One Brook is a fantastic opportunity for us to celebrate young people’s involvement and build on our successes around participation. Earlier this year we were successful in our funding application to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation who are funding Brook’s participation project for two years in order to build a culture of participation within the new Brook organisation.

"The key aims of the project are to:

  • increase opportunities for young people to influence policy and practice on sexual health
  • increase the skills and confidence of staff to promote and support young people’s participation in all areas of their work
  • increase the involvement of young people, particularly from priority minority groups such as disabled young people.

"We recognise the need for robust structures to provide genuine opportunities for young people to influence policy and decision-making at all levels of the organisation.

"With extensive changes to health commissioning there is a danger that user engagement will go missing in the change. Working within a current climate of major service redesign locally, regionally and nationally it is crucial that young people have a voice to influence, to ensure services of the future meet their needs.

"So far this year, young people have been actively involved in shaping Brook, by their involvement in the Tier 1 and 2 recruitment processes and now the Middle Management and Administration restructure.

"They have continued to shape and take ownership of Brook services via mystery shopping, peer education programmes, as campaign and outreach volunteers, and as Trustees on the Board. We have continued to work creatively with young people to ensure that their voices are heard, including supporting them to create short films, pod casts, posters, leaflets and blogs.

"Through our partnership with the O2 Think Big foundation, we are in the process of supporting young people to deliver 15 social action projects across Brook, focusing on issues ranging from breastfeeding support for young mums, anti-bullying, legal rights for Trans* young people, and accessibility for young people with disabilities.

"There is also the V24/24 programme which was successfully delivered in London, Liverpool and Oldham, providing a work experience placement for 24 weeks to young people who are viewed by society as the most vulnerable, offering key opportunities and tailored personal development plans to support them to achieve their individual goals.

"The young people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with this year have completely shattered society’s negative stereotype of young people. They are hard working, motivated, enthusiastic and passionate about young people’s rights around sexual health. And on that note I’d like to hand the floor over to some of our young volunteers so that they can tell you more about their social action projects and achievements themselves."

So back to me: I am proud of our progress so far, and am energised and excited by how much more we can do to work with young people to promote and protect sexual rights, to improve sexual health and wider health and well being.  It is a journey that will continue and continue and its a journey I am very much looking forward to - I am sure there will be some white knuckle roller coaster moments and I hope some times we will be able to sit back and enjoy the view and most of all I hope that young people's involvement will help us kick up the dust when we need to and shout from the roof tops about young people's rights.

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