During my time on the recent NHS Youth Forum, I loved having my views and opinions heard by significant people of our National Health Service. However, I ensure that it is not for my own benefit, but for the children and young people in Herefordshire who are receiving treatment and care from Wye Valley NHS Trust. I met regularly with the managing director, human resources director, and senior clinicians in paediatric care, to feedback the views of young people. Being a member of this incredible, national forum has provided great opportunities, including attending meetups where youth forums from hospitals across England come together to brainstorm ideas.
As we were unable to physically meet up, I found having a virtual residential an interesting way of bringing the 2019/20 NHS England Youth Forum together for a final time and it was lovely to see everyone again through Zoom or Webinar. I was able to be more vocal during these sessions as I find it easier to speak out in group situations over video calls. I would strongly recommend the British Youth Council considers holding more virtual based meetings and residentials with young people who are involved in the various programmes that they lead. We were also able to have engaging conversions with senior leaders from NHSE & NHS Digital during these sessions, enabling us to make a positive impact on how the NHS run services and engage with young people in the feedback sessions. I believe that this was a positive step as it enabled me to engage with the NHS and not have to worry about having to travel anywhere which I can sometimes find difficult as a wheelchair user.
In November 2019, when the current NHS England Youth Forum Project began, I decided I wanted to look into creating a youth forum for young people. I hoped that this forum would provide a space for young people to tell professionals their views within their local primary care network in Herefordshire, as I believe that young people were being overlooked by their local GPs. I approached Hereford Medical Group, my local primary care network, with my forum idea, and at the beginning of my engagement with senior officials at the practice they were keen to hear about my project but as time went on the engagement stopped and I haven’t been able to achieve what I set to do. I have learnt not to give up engaging with health care professionals if you are passionate about making a positive change in our health sector because eventually you will be listened to. I have been able to further develop my communication skills during this project because I have had to engage with healthcare professionals in my community either verbally or through written communication such as email.
It is vital that children and young people are listened to by key decision makers across all sectors because they are the next generation and will benefit from the decisions that are made by these leaders now for years to come. Children and young people are preparing organisations for the future and I feel that this NHS England youth forum group have certainly made sure that leaders make these decisions so the NHS for young people is sustained for the future. We have to remember that the NHS has been going for over 70 years and is of course unique to the United Kingdom, and children and young people are at its heart.
Being a member of the NHS England Youth Forum has opened so many different doors and opportunities for me and has led to me joining other youth advisory panels such as for the Sport and Recreation Alliance. The voice of children and young people is key to any organisation as they have to remember that we are the next generation who are going to potentially front the organisation, so we have to be heard today to have any impact on their current objectives. There are now many children and young people across England who are incredibly passionate about getting themselves and others heard which is so awesome to see and has continued to grow since 2018.
I was to give any advice to future members of youth panels, especially the NHS England Youth Forum, it would be to not give up when you are either speaking to or trying to engage with key decision makers in order to achieve your objectives. In the end they will stand up and listen to you whether that is at local, regional or national level, and it will happen I can promise you that. I would also advise that you use your status as a member of the Youth Forum because this will give you the extra power to engage with professionals at all levels.
I would like to end by piece and record my thanks to the British Youth Council, NHS England, Kath Evans who was instrumental in the creation of the youth forum at NHS England back in 2014, Luci O’Reilly, Zoe Cumberland, Leon Hill, Maria Marlow, Saarah Bokhari, Nagina Javid, and last but not least Olivia Butterworth at NHS England for all your incredible work in ensuring the continued success of the NHS England Youth Forum.
We are excited to announce the British Youth Council’s support for Teach the Future, a campaign to reform the education system to reflect the severity of the climate crisis and ecological emergency.
For a number of years, the British Youth Council have worked to convince the Government to introduce statutory and compulsory high-quality citizenship education to the curriculum. The Youth Select Committee’s report in 2013 ‘A Curriculum for Life’ concluded life skills education in schools falls short of its full potential, and ever since, youth representatives across the country have demanded concrete commitments from the government to improve this. In 2018, the Government listened to some of our recommendations by committing to mandatory sex and relationship education. However, this does not go far enough to prepare young people for their future.
It is clear that the scope of the current citizenship curriculum is far too narrow and must be broadened to educate young people on wider political and constitutional rights as well as global issues including sustainability, and the climate. A vital finding of the Youth Select Committee’s report on a Curriculum for Life was that young people are willing and eager to take part in shaping the curriculum to ensure that it addresses the issues which they are facing. All too often schools do not take full advantage of this creative energy. Young people know what issues they face, and should be given the opportunity to shape the curriculum to address their concerns. Through observing the recent school strikes and the full breadth of climate activism, it is undeniable that young people are passionate about doing all they can to protect the planet and attain a greener future.
However, research from the Green Schools Project showed that just 4% of students feel they know a lot about climate change, whilst polling last year showed that 68% of students want to learn more about this, and 71% believe that climate change education should be part of the school curriculum. The appetite among young people to learn and take action is being squandered. Young people want to protect the planet, which is why in November of last year, Members of Youth Parliament gathered in the House of Commons and voted to make Protecting the Environment one of their campaign priorities for the next year. The British Youth Council backs this widespread action and enthusiasm to learn about climate change amongst young people and supports the multiplicity of climate action projects being carried out by young leaders across the country.
All of this is why we have become a supportive partner of Teach the Future! Along with dozens of other organisations and activists, we are calling on the Government to reform the education system to reflect the severity of the climate crisis which we now face. We want the Government to review how the education system prepares young people for the climate emergency and the ecological crisis, along with including the climate emergency in all teacher training.
You can find out how you can support the campaign by visiting the website at www.teachthefuture.uk
Hear from the British Youth Voice Star awardee and volunteering champion, Jess Griffiths, on her life-changing journey through Youth Voice, her award and where the role has led her to now….
Hi, my name is Jess Griffiths and I won the British Youth Voice Star Award for personal development.
Youth Voice has played a massive role in my life over the last four-years in many ways.
My roles over the years have changed quite a lot. I have been a Young Leader, Young Facilitator and I have recently been employed as an Early Help Support worker. I’m now also a volunteer youth worker at Kent Youth County Council, which means I support young people in getting their voices heard.
However, this time four-years ago I would never imagine me being in this great position that I find myself in now.
I started my youth voice journey at the age of 15. At this time, I was very shy and didn’t engage with a lot. I was struggling at school and, with my GCSEs coming up, I knew I needed to find something positive to put my energy into.
My social-skills teacher showed me a poster about the Kent Youth County Council. I wasn’t too sure about it, but gave the elections ago. At my surprise, I was lucky enough to be elected as a member for the Shepway District.
At my first meeting I was very overwhelmed and just wanted the ground to sallow me up! However, I met some other young people there and they seemed nice, so I thought I would give it a go. I also met members of the staff who were amazing! They really helped me to access the youth council by providing me with the time and the support to get me through a traumatic time in my life.
I was a victim of abuse, but they didn’t let me go through it alone, and I always knew there was someone for me to talk to. By September the following year I felt like I had truly found a place where I belonged and had made friends that would last me a lifetime.
Whilst I was at Kent Youth County Council meeting I heard a participation worker speak about ‘HeadStart’ Kent. At the time I didn’t have very good attendance, or a very good relationship with my teachers, and was always told “I was never going to achieve anything in my life.”
I’m a young carer, and so school at the time was a hassle for me. There was just lots going on- and I didn’t have time for it. I had other priorities and was struggling to manage everything at once.
HeadStart came along just at the right time for me. Staff encouraged me to get involved in the central ‘SpeakOut’ group, which was a partnership for young people across Kent to have their say in the delivery of the HeadStart programme.
SpeakOut has been really pivotal for me. It has made me feel part of something. It’s like a dysfunctional family where we all play our own parts! I’m “Aunty Jess” and a lot of the other members had come to me to talk about their problems.
I have been able to use my own experiences and struggles with mental health to help others. I have also learned more about myself, and how to manage situations. I now know that I’m in control and have developed my own resilience for difficult times. I was proving everyone wrong despite my mental health problems and my additional needs. I had this amazing feeling that I was going places.
In 2017 I became a Young Leader of Youth Voice, which gave me the opportunity to mentor and support other young people.
Over last summer, I was involved in designing coproduction training for Youth Voice and was able to deliver this to a group of senior managers and directors within Kent County Council. Now we are rolling it out to staff.
Our aim was that young people would make a difference in promoting youth voice and engagement. New opportunities for young people have come out of this, and it’s great to see that more is now happening in Kent County Council to ensure the voice of young people is taken into account in decision-making, not just with HeadStart.
Even during the training workshop, at the break, we heard managers on the phone to staff asking if young people had been involved- and if not, “they needed to be!” I felt like I had really made a difference to services in my county, and that young people in general were finally given a way to use their voices for real change!
A massive highlight for me must be speaking in Parliament about my co-production training work, as well as my own HeadStart journey. I was able to affirm why it’s so important that young people have access to projects such as HeadStart and Kent Youth County Council. It was great to get across to important decision makers how passionate I am about the service and the work it does for young people, like me.
I was lucky enough to be on the ‘Big Conversation’ panel in March too. It was an amazing way to end my Youth Voice journey and getting the chance to answer the questions that young people had regarding their mental health, personal development, and other important topics to them.
Another highlight that MUST NOT be forgotten is my National Award for ‘Personal Development’! I never thought I was going to get shortlisted, let alone win. I can’t thank everyone enough for all their kind words, especially Claire (my Participation Worker) and the young person that filmed the video. Moments like that are so sweet, and I cry every time I watch the video back, as I had never heard how much I actually mean to people.
I just want to say a MASSIVE thank you to the whole Participation Team in Kent- without you guys I would of gave up a long time ago. You all gave the time, resources and the safe space to allow me to get to the place I am now. Also, a massive thank you to all the amazing young people I have worked with that are so dedicated and inspirational. You all deserve gold for the work you do! I can’t wait to meet many more in my new job role.
As I said towards the start of this post, I am in a completely different place in my life. I’m in control of my mental health and I feel positive in caring for myself and others. I have a good support network around me now, with solid people that are there for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed helping to develop Headstart and youth engagement in Kent Youth County Council and in turn, they played a massive role in creating an environment that has helped me develop and get to where I am today.
If I would have one piece of advice for anyone it would be never be ashamed of what you’re going through or been through, that’s your story that you can create strengthen from! It will be used to inspire others , but don’t let it stop you being who you want to be because YOU can do it!
Hi I’m Sarah Bellamy and I’m a Participation, Voice and Influence Coordinator for Rotherham Council, based within the Early Help and Family Engagement Service. My involvement with Youth Voice is predominantly working with Rotherham Youth Cabinet and Members of the Youth Parliament. I also work with a range of other youth voice groups, such as the Young Inspectors and I have helped to develop groups such as the Roma/Slovak Youth Forum.
My role is to engage young people across Rotherham to help them to have their voice heard within different forums and situations. I help to shape services from a young people’s perspective and involve the young people in assisting with decision making processes.
I have worked at Rotherham Borough Council for over 26 years. I started as an admin worker but soon discovered that I loved working with young people and shortly after completed my Youth Work training.
During my 26 years, I have held many different roles, all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I have always ensured that the voice of the youth underpinned my practice and felt passionate that opportunities should be offered to actively engage young people in having a voice and influencing decisions being made on their behalf.
In 2011 the opportunity arose to apply for a post of Voice and Influence Youth Worker and I was delighted when I successfully secured the position. My journey within this role has been focussed on ensuring that youth voice in Rotherham is strong and powerful and also trying to reduce barriers for young people’s participation. I also feel it is important to always remember my youth work background so that all our work is done with young people’s best interests in mind.
There have been so many highlights along the way, and it is incredible to be part of the journey that young people make in their lives. I’ve seen young people who first join us not having the confidence to speak in front of a group, or hold the belief that people don’t want to hear their voice and after engaging with us I then see the transformation. to witness the same young people speaking passionately in the Town Hall Chamber in front of an audience of Elected Members. This is hugely uplifting and shows the strength of participation work and how it can impact on lives from an early age.
It’s so rewarding, having a young person come to a group who has endured bullying and trauma in their lives and watching them gain confidence, self-esteem and self-belief so that they can have their views listened to. Not all young people who get involved in Youth Voice start with the confidence to share their voice, but the work that we do along their journey helps to build that confidence and the journey is as important as the end results.
Youth voice working in Rotherham has enjoyed a great deal of success and we are immensely proud of this and are keen to emphasise that young people have been fundamental in this achievement and service developments. Members of Rotherham’s youth voice groups are regularly invited to high profile meetings, to ensure that their views and opinions are included and help to shape services from their perspective. Young people are frequently invited to participate in Civic Events in the town as representatives of our young people in Rotherham and this builds their opportunity to experience a range of forums and helps other young people feel inspired.
Many individual young people have been recognised for their own passion and achievements locally and have been presented with awards for being ‘Passionate about the Voice of Young People’ and ‘Most Inspirational Young Person of the Year’ award.
I have been awarded the Youth Voice Worker of the Year award for two consecutive years and feel extremely proud of this. I find it incredible that I could win an award for doing a job that I absolutely love and am tremendously passionate about. However, it is all down to the amazing young people who I work with.
The nominations for the award were from the young people that I work with, who have told me since that they secretly completed the nomination form, created the videos and submitted them. They are the ones who turn up week in, week out, working on campaigns, attending meetings and creating presentations. The young people never fail to amaze me with their commitment, dedication and passion and it’s my privilege to be part of this process.
On 13-14th January, I attended the Commonwealth Youth Senior Officials Meeting 2020 (Europe and Canada region) and had the honour of representing the views of UK Young people at the event. The meeting was held at the beautiful Marlborough House in London – headquarters of the Commonwealth of Nations and the seat of the Commonwealth Secretariat.
The meeting was attended by senior officials responsible for youth at the government level, National youth leaders, youth workers and representatives from the Council of Europe, Commonwealth Youth Council, Commonwealth Alliance for Youth Workers Association and the Commonwealth Students’ Association. The commence the meeting, the Commonwealth secretariat spoke about their vision and missions of sustaining a Commonwealth that embraces diversity and improves the well-being of all Commonwealth citizens. It was inspiring to hear from the Senior officials of the UK, Canada, Malta and Cyprus who spoke about how they are promoting youth voice within their countries and it was thoroughly interesting to listen to the sharing of best practice through innovative projects carried out across the Commonwealth such as campaigns to improve digital skills development, youth volunteerism and the development of safe and inclusive spaces for young people.
I participated in a round-table style event where country-specific regional challenges were shared. During this, I had an opportunity to put forward the views of young people in the UK, by speaking about the national campaigns voted for by young people in the UK, through the British Youth Council. Throughout the discussion, a theme of increasing the voices of youth within the Europe and Canada regions to the Commonwealth were raised, hence a positive action that was taken was to keep the formal meeting of “Europe and Canada” to support the national youth councils within these member countries to have regional meetings ahead of the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2020. This was a great step for a more connected Commonwealth. I worked with youth across the Commonwealth and it was remarkable to see how united we are through our similarities. Commonwealth Youth Leaders identified similar priority areas within their countries such as tackling unemployment, ending poverty, the need for quality education, housing, protecting our environment and tackling climate change.
The meeting concluded with a presentation by the Commonwealth youth representatives to Commonwealth senior officials, decision-makers and the Commonwealth secretariat. I had a chance to speak about the campaigns voted for by young people in the UK through the Make Your Mark ballot. The UK-wide youth campaign of Protecting our environment was highlighted and how we have a collective responsibility to protect the environment from the effects of climate change for the next generation and to look more towards carbon-neutral alternatives. I also spoke about the campaign of Putting an End to Knife Crime. Too many young people’s lives are lost to knife crime and how we would like the Government to do more to help end the knife crime epidemic. I was able to highlight the positive actions taken by youth since the last Commonwealth Youth Forum such as The British Youth Council starting a youth forum working with the Bank of England, the UK’s attendance at the United Nations Youth Climate Action Summit and creating a Youth Voice Leadership Development Programme to increase the diversity of young people in leadership roles.
I would like to thank the British Youth Council and all of the incredible young people across the UK who are making a positive difference in society – It has been a privilege to be able to share UK Youth national campaigns with Commonwealth youth leaders and it has been a great experience to have an opportunity to put forward youth voices at this meeting.
The Commonwealth is a global family of countries connected through a sharing of common principles and values. Young people are key for building a more peaceful and united world hence, our communities must safeguard the valuable voices of young people.
In November Lucia and I travelled to Amiens in France to represent the British Youth Council at the Council of Members Extraordinary Meeting (COMEM). It was an opportunity to come together with all the members of the European Youth Forum to discuss policy and campaigns.
On Thursday evening, Lucia went to the announcement of the European Youth Capital for 2022 which President Macron gave a speech. The ceremony takes place every year in the previous European Youth Capital, and the event is always a spectacle. After some moving performance pieces including poetry, acrobatics and dance, each Youth Capital finalist was invited to show their application video and give a short speech about their city. The winner was announced as Tirana, Albania – congratulations!
We then spent most of Friday and Saturday debating the European Youth Forum’s Strategic Plan and the policy documents which outline the European Youth Forum’s position on areas from “The Future of Work” to “Gender Equality”. The documents aim to strengthen and enhance the work done in specific areas of youth policy and spots areas that need to be focused on. By working on amendments for each document, we were able to have a say on issues important to the British Youth Council and the values we stand for. We also got to speak with the European Youth Forum’s board members about their campaigns and some of the areas they are focused on. We were really pleased to be able to vote on the admission of organisations to the European Youth Forum either in full or observer member status. The successful organisations were: The National Youth Council of Turkey (GoFor), Youth Express Network (Y-E-N) and the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions Youth (CESI-Youth).
As this was my first trip abroad as a UK Young Ambassador, I spent a lot of time getting to know all the other representatives from around Europe and trying to gain a better understanding of how the European Youth Forum works as an organisation and as a group of young campaigners.
One of the highlights was Friday evening- we managed to get some free tickets to watch Amiens play an ice hockey match which they won 4-2!
On 14th November, the British Youth Council held a drinks reception for the Friends of the British Youth Council and many of our supporters. It was a fantastic evening which saw alumni, donors, staff, trustees, partners and friends come together and celebrate all that they have made possible by supporting the British Youth Council!
After some initial welcome drinks, our guests were welcomed by Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council, Kyle Parks, who spoke eloquently about what the charity has achieved over the past year, including youth forum work with both the Bank of England and the NHS, and follow up work on the Youth Select Committee work. He also stressed how incredible it was to see British Youth Council alumni from many different years all in one room “connecting or reconnecting with each other and keeping relationships within the British Youth Council community strong”. He set out the future plans for the charity commenting; “we are on a great path, maturing as a charity, as we aim to move up a gear in our fundraising and partnerships.”
Rounding up the welcome speech he went on to introduce Mita Desai, our keynote speaker for the evening. An unyielding advocate for youth voice, Mita has been fighting for young people to be heard continually throughout her career. She spoke about her experience as a trustee on the British Youth Council board and later as Chair, describing it as a fantastic learning experience which shaped her future career. Specifically, Mita now manages the Young Trustees Movement for the Social Change Agency, with aims of doubling the number of Young Trustees by 2024. This work was directly influenced by Mita’s time on the board, which inspired her to see the potential of young people and the immense benefit of including their voices in decision-making.
She ended her speech by reminding attendees of the importance of lifting young voices up and making sure they are heard. She encouraged everyone to continue to support the British Youth Council to ensure we can carry on our work and keep empowering young people to speak up and make a change. Small regular donations to the British Youth Council are one of the most beneficial ways to support the charity into the future we’d love you to set up a regular donation.
A huge thank you to everyone who attended and made the evening so special, we hope to see you at future Friends of British Youth Council events!
If you missed this event but are interested in attending future events, please do make sure to sign up to the Friends of British Youth Council mailing list.
A massive thank you to all our donors for donating generously during our Big Give Christmas Campaign; your donations have been doubled and with gift aid we have raised a total of £4,220 and smashed the target!
This fantastic total means the British Youth Council can deliver the Youth Voice Leadership Development Programme, which will help young people to develop their leadership skills and increase their confidence to speak up on the issues they care about. In turn, young people are prepared to step up as leaders and create change locally, regionally and nationally. The programme also helps to fulfil our commitment to increasing the diversity of young people in leadership roles.
This was reflected by a beneficiary speaking of their time on the 2018/19 programme: “I now have the ability to publicly speak in a confident manner. It has opened so many more doors, I am now a confident leader.”
The Leadership Development Programme is just another demonstration of how the British Youth Council creates platforms and opportunities for young people to have their voices heard on the issues that are important to them. Through our various programmes, we develop young people’s confidence as well as their debating and leadership skills by giving them opportunities to voice and amplify their opinions. Your donations will enable us to support even more young people to become leaders of change!
On behalf of the British Youth Council Staff and Trustees, I want to say a heartfelt thank you for supporting the leaders of tomorrow.
Across the UK there is a fantastic youth social action network, this network can be in a variety of forms but I have personally experienced this in a number of different settings.
I have been a member of the NHS England Youth Forum which is an awesome network for making positive change from the point of view of young people who let’s face it are going to be using the NHS for years to come.
The NHS England Youth Forum has been able to positively make a difference in a number of different ways over the 12 to 18 months, through 3 campaigns ‘Share your NHS Story’; ‘Peer Support’ & ‘Educating the Educators’.
For myself, the ‘Share your NHS Story’ campaign has had the most impact within my local area because I have been able to influence positive change by encouraging young people to speak out about there NHS Story if they have one & have felt confident enough to share it with there peer group.
I have also been able to see a positive change in the way that young people are listened to by key decision makers not just within my home town of Hereford but also now on a national level through my work with the NHS England Youth Forum & Youth Advisory Panel at the Sport & Recreation Alliance.
When I launched The Young Person’s Network in 2017 my vision was to enable all children & young people in Herefordshire to be heard if they are aged between 11-18 and have a disability or additional need. 2 years on I think it is safe to say that decision makers in my county are effectively listening to marginalised young people.
I know this is happening is a positive way because my network managed to get 2 pavements lowered in a rural area of the county for a young person who is a wheelchair user and wanted to go out independently with friends.
She wasn’t able to before this change because of the lack of dropped kerbs in her local town so I was contacted about this issue and then liaised with key decision makers to influence this much needed change.
More recently I have worked with a group of young people to highlight the lack of dropped kerbs for those who are either in wheelchairs or have mobility issues. After months of high profiled campaigning, we have now had such an impact on key decision makers that more dropped kerbs are going to be added to roads where they are needed in Herefordshire.
To conclude: without young people speaking out and being heard by people in power across a number of organisations locally, regionally & nationally we wouldn’t have made a positive impact on the lives of generations to come, this is why since getting involved with the NHS England Youth Forum & SRA Youth Advisory Panel I have developed a serious passion for youth social action in the UK. Don’t be afraid to speak out & be heard.