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The positive power of Participation for young people in care. 

St Christopher’s Philosophy of Care is based on a number of guiding principles. One of which is that we believe individuals are experts in themselves and their experiences. This goes some way to explain why we value participation so highly.

Young people in care tell us how key decisions in their lives have been taken out of their hands and how disorienting this can be. We believe that this should never be the case.

We know that young people often feel powerless in changing their future.  The knock on effect of this impacts their self-confidence, self-image and longer term outcomes.  Equally, based on our outlined beliefs, we trust that they are experts in themselves. We must therefore listen and allow them to make crucial decisions for their ultimate benefit.

Across St Christopher’s we give the children and young people in our care a voice. We then act on their recommendations.

Read on to find out more about the work of our Participation services. Both the Participation and Life Skills Team in the UK, and our Participation team on the Isle of Man.

This year in the UK, we aimed to respond meaningfully to what young people told us in our survey with them. A key piece of feedback given, was that they felt that there wasn’t enough to do in their homes, in particular our semi-independent services for those aged 16+. We have therefore been working to support staff teams to offer young people more to do in their spare time. We had a staff versus young people football match earlier this month, and are looking into further inter-home activities for over the summer. We are also arranging the likes of group camping trips.

Additionally we have worked with staff teams and delivered tailored sessions on Participation and Engagement in their team meetings. The views of our young people expressed in the survey also now form part of our training for new staff. They have also been presented to trustees to impact decision-making from the top down.

We regularly visit homes and have undertaken home personalisation projects in several locations this year. We have worked with young people to produce mosaics and murals that express their feelings, hopes and ambitions. We have also worked with young people to upcycle furniture, which has allowed them to positively contribute to their own space, whilst learning new skills.

This all comes on top of our day-to-day support for them, in which we deliver a variety of bespoke life skills support. These include cooking sessions, in which we help young people to learn whilst developing an enjoyment of food and independence.  We also offer emotional understanding workshops, in which we use the creative arts to promote safe and comfortable ways for young people to open up. This allows them to reflect on and speak about their experiences, what they find difficult, and their thoughts about the future. We also arrange outings to places young people may not have had a chance to visit before, such as art galleries or the seaside. All this of course sits alongside our therapeutic and learning support. The full combination of which is in place to ensure we offer the best to the young people in our care.

This year we have trialled our Get into Work project, which supports young people to build the confidence and skillsets needed to achieve their potential in the workplace. The success of the pilot stage of this project, has allowed us to secure funding from the National Lottery Local Community Fund. Through this, we can continue to achieve these positive outcomes for young people.

Additionally, a key aim we have for the rest of the year is to create a more formal, (but accessible) forum for young people to share their ideas, experiences and concerns. We hope to launch the Young People’s Advisory Panel this summer, a discussion forum that will ensure the voices of young people across St Christopher’s are heard and consistently represented.

Similarly, in the Isle of Man a big aim for the year was the reestablishment of the Voices in Participation Council (VIP). This creates a space where children and young people can come together, listen and learn. The Council started up again in March this year and has since been meeting monthly.

Another aim was to have young people attend the Corporate Parenting Group, and share their views and expertise in themselves to help drive meaningful change. The collective is made up of members from Tynwald, Manx Care, The Police, Health and Education experts, St Christopher’s, and now a representative from VIP.  Inclusion of which is helping to ensure that the voice of young people is heard at the highest levels of Government.

Through regular visits to homes and to the aftercare services we provide, we learned that young people on the island where struggling with the costs of learning to drive. Working in partnership with aftercare and Manx Care, we were able to secure new funding for the Drive Project and relaunch it. This provides funding to successful applicants to enable them to learn to drive. Since its relaunch in March a number of young people have successfully been accepted and are now taking their first lessons.

One of our main aims is to provide training for children and young people to be able to sit on interview panels, so they can provide their valuable insight and expertise when recruiting our new staff. Our goal is that not only St Christopher’s, but our partners on the island, will benefit from this expertise in recruiting relevant posts. Recently, a couple of our young people from one of our semi-independent homes aided St Christopher’s in the recruitment of a new Trustee’s where their input added enormous value.

We understand that there is not an upper limit on what we can learn from our young people nor the impact this can have.

If you are from an organisation that wants to truly help create brighter futures for young people in care, please get in touch via our contact form. We would love to collaborate with you and support our young people further.