Young person interviews CEO and Chairs
Lucy took on the role of interviewer for Jonathan Whalley, Bert O’Donoghue and Jane Poole-Wilson to to reflect on the last 12 months and find out about plans for the future of our charity.
Lucy: What are you most proud of from the year?
Jonathan: We can’t think about the last year without thinking about the pandemic. I am most proud that we kept all our services running and that staff and foster carers did all they could to make sure children and young people were cared for.
Lucy: Like the managers in the children’s home where I live.
Jane: How staff have gone above and beyond in times of lockdown and other challenging situations, adapting to meet the needs of our young people and each other. For example, our Support Into Employment team adapted to support care leavers in the community at a time of high need, and residential staff moved into homes with young people who tested positive for COVID-19.
Bert: I am proud of our young people for managing during this time and of staff, who had the challenge of looking after their own families but still coming in and covering extra shifts.
Jonathan: That is a really good point, our children and young people have done so well this year and excelled in their studies.
Lucy: I managed to gain four qualifications this year.
Jonathan: You should be proud of that. There was such disruption to school and college, it must have been so hard. Young people really have shown all of us what they are capable of and their strength.
Lucy: As you said that, my social worker just text to say how much of a changed person I am since living at St Christopher’s.
Bert: Would you say you are a changed person?
Lucy: You could say that. When I first moved here I wasn’t the nicest person to be around but I got a lot better. It has ben a long time here for me but I have done my journey and come out better. But enough about me, I am the one that’s meant to be asking the questions! If you could do one thing differently in the last year, what would it be?
Jane: Work even harder at having regular, effective communication. Even when it is challenging to meet up in person, it is important that everyone is able to raise matters, be listened to and feel connected.
Bert: Had we known that life was going to be so hard, we might have had more staff ready to cover shifts so that there was less pressure on those staff who were working in our services.
Jonathan: We did a lot to try and support staff. We gathered a team of volunteers from our office and partnered with agencies to provide extra cover. The thing I regret is not being able to get out to services. We learn so much about how to support people by being out and actually meeting people.
Lucy: Come to my home and do shifts, we’ll have you. There is a care review happening in England. What do you think the government should change or do to improve things for children in care?
Jonathan: The saddest thing is that if you had asked me that 30 years ago when I started my career as a social worker I would have given you the same answer. There is too much delay in the system. Decisions are made for young people by people who don’t know them, like social workers who have only met them a few times. Young people too often do not have a voice in the matters that affect them. This is a once in a generation opportunity to change these things.
Lucy: I agree with that!
Bert: We need to make sure that young people have a voice and not just a peripheral one. Working with young people needs to be given recognition as a great career and people need to be paid appropriately so that they can support their family and continue to grow in their roles.
Lucy: Whoever is involved in the care review needs to remember that if you really want young people to have a voice you need to find opportunities for them to have direct conversations with people, not via adults. Help the care review hear directly form young people through recordings or however you want to do it.
Jonathan: Our aim is not to just share young people’s views with the care review but to respond to it ourselves as an organisation. And it is not just about having a voice but having ears too, so it might not be possible to do everything that young people want but we will be responsible and explain why. Sometimes children and young people get told no without an explanation- we don’t want to do that.
Lucy: That is true. Yes, no, maybe – it doesn’t always matter what the answer is, but the way it is explained is what matters. What have you learned from children and young people this year?
Jonathan: How to help young people have a voice and how to expand on it so that we listen to children and young people at all levels of the organisation. I have learned how young people in our homes feel a sense of gratitude to the people who care for them. And how young people have such ambition. Sometimes the system writes them off but they have resilience. We see young people do well while they live with us and when they leave, and they keep in touch and share their success stories. You hear a lot of stats about care leavers experiencing poor outcomes and our job at St Christopher’s is to help each young person achieve their potential so they are happy, safe & loved. Sometimes young people come don’t know how to let people love them.
Lucy: I was like that.
Jane: I learned about the potential of each child. Even when a child or young person has had a very difficult time, we can see them start to believe in themselves through patience, love and support.
Jonathan: And it is our responsibility to help you experience that and achieve.
Bert: For me I learned what it must have been like to have so many social restrictions as a young person. I have learned about how resilient young people are. They have been so restricted socially and educationally because of the pandemic and are coming out the other side.
Lucy: I really agree with that. I think there should also be more communication between the government and actual care staff. There should be a vote to say care staff should get paid more – at the end of the day you guys do actually save lives long-term.
Lucy: If you could change one thing in society to support children in care and care leavers, what would it be?
Jonathan: The way social care staff are paid and the culture around social care. A change in attitude is needed. When we open new children’s homes, neighbours get angry and see the people who move in as troubled children. We need to flip that on its head.
Bert: I would want recognition for people who choose a children’s social care career to encourage more to enter it.
Lucy: I am studying health and social care and hope to be a social worker so you never know you might see me! What do you think you would find most challenging working in one of our services?
Jonathan: If a young person has a hard time, it can be really hard because we are invested personally. I know I would find it hard because I did find this tough when I worked in children’s homes. But that’s what makes people good at what they do.
Bert: Saying goodbye when people move on. Now we have Staying Close and work hard to stay in touch so it’s not so bad, but I would find that hard.
Lucy: I agree. I might use a Staying Close plan when I move. What are you most excited about for St Christopher’s in 2022?
Jane: A new Youth Justice role in the Isle of Man, working in the community to prevent young people from being involved in criminal activity. I’m also excited about Support Into Employment continuing its important work with the island’s care leavers.
Lucy: Soon you will need to set new goals for the charity. How will you ensure you do the right things for children and young people?
Jonathan: We want to use creative methods to get the views of young people and our workforce. Sometimes it can be hard to imagine into the future. To make sure we get our services and plans right, we are going to use data from local authorities, and continue to influence people to always consider what young people need.
Jane: It’s important to engage with our young people, staff and partners who work alongside us to understand what is needed and build that into future goals.
Bert: What are your plans for the next five years?
Lucy: I am going to succeed in my college course. Get a Level 3 qualification and a job in a children’s home and then work my way up. I am due to move next week to a semi-independent home. It is a big change but I know I am ready and am excited. Anyway, enough about me. That’s the end!
Thank you Lucy for being a brilliant interviewer. Don’t forget to read St Christopher’s Impact Report 2022 for more stories from our children and young people.