‘Let us have our Say!’
‘Make decisions about us, with us. Let us have our say!
Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health Youth Advisory Panel member
Organisations of all kinds, including health and social care organisations, are increasingly required to involve service users, including Children and Young People (CYP), in developing strategies and services for their individual needs. In particular, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides CYP under 18 years of age with a comprehensive set of civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights, is a key driver for change and allowing the voice of these children to become louder and recognised in service development.
Progress has been made in giving CYP a voice in national and local strategic health decisions to influence change however; this is not yet universal or inclusive. At times, this can be a tokenistic consultation and just lead to the participation ‘box’ being ticked by organisations because it can be demonstrated that we have involved CYP in a specific activity, rather than because we can provide evidence of change or involvement as a result of participation. Children and young people must have voice and influence. They need to shape the services we provide for them. They need professionals and key stakeholders to be comfortable in collaborating, interacting and engaging with them to ensure a model of co-producing and co-designing services with CYP is #NotJustaThought.
Starting the process to design a new CSE assessment tool – a psychological assessment model to help professionals and services better able to communicate and assess CYP needs in a very sensitive and difficult area-has been an amazing, enlightening time.
The wisdom and insight of CYP is often underrated as I found out during one of the many joint workshops. ‘How do we as professionals ask you, without offending or embarrassing you, whether you are sexually active or not’. ‘Just get to the point!!!’ was the quick response ‘don’t go around the houses, just ask us what you need to know’.
Having worked in the field of paediatrics for 25 years I am still inspired and energized by them and more so within this project as they have revealed such courage and insight discussing and sharing their individual past traumas and experiences to total strangers that we were when we started.
What has emerged from this true co-production has been an engagement model, ‘conversational’ skills and knowledge, that not only myself but other colleagues can take away with us and utilise in our own workplaces to enable us to engage with CYP in a more meaningful , relevant and confident way. Our existing knowledge has been enhanced and changed with the new ideas from CYP based on their actual, rather than our perceived ideas. We let them have their say, and we have developed and learned a huge amount through that process