Did you know that children and young people make up nearly 25% of the population, and thus a significant proportion of the NHS’s patients? Or that we are some of the largest users of primary care, such as GP practices and clinics; as well as secondary care, which includes A&E’s, hospitals and so forth…
It’s true! We are a crucial piece in the big picture of how the NHS operates, who it provides a service for and the quality of that service as well. The voices of young people are vital in shaping how the NHS is structured and exactly how it delivers the services that we all make use of and appreciate.
The NHS Youth Forum, established in 2014, consists of around 25 young people from across England, who work together to improve quality of care for children and youth within the NHS. They also ensure young people’s voices are heard by NHS staff, local hospitals and trusts, GP clinics, policymakers and Government bodies. We are committed to ensuring young people’s experience of healthcare and their assessment of whether the healthcare that is currently available today, is meeting the needs of our generation.
In addition to the core NHS Youth Forum group, whose members change each year, the forum’s Alumni members have come together this year to form a group of NHS Youth Social Action Advisors (NYSAA’s). Their main priority is to inspire more young people to get involved in volunteering and other forms of social action within healthcare; and to contact NHS organisations and trusts around the country to support in putting programs in place that offer young people these opportunities to get involved.
Another of their priorities is to ensure they link the NHS Youth Forum base with the #iWill movement, as some of the NYSAA’s are also #iWill Ambassadors. This in turn, will maximise the incredible resource of young people within both organisations, and give us the opportunity to work together on meeting the timed objectives of the #iWill campaign.
Why is this important?
Young people are powerhouses. We are extremely ‘in-the-know’ about the world we live in and have creative and innovative ideas about how our society can, and should, be shaped to better support the people who live within it. Healthcare is a pivotal part of this society, and so it is important that we participate in its management.
It doesn’t take all that much work to be engaged in life and inspire others. Being engaged is also great for our emotional and physical wellbeing, and makes people feel more important and valued.
We can also make a massive impact. For example, in 2014 I set up a youth patient group at my local medical practice and asked friends of mine to come along to meetings and support me to review the weekly young person’s clinic, redesign their flyers and also give feedback on how services could be improved.
A year or so down the line we ran a workshop at a local children’s festival on how much sugar was inside certain drinks. We were then asked to stage the same workshop at another event, and another, and eventually we had worked with hundreds of children.
A highlight of leading the group was carrying out a ‘Canteen Takeover Day’ at my college to promote healthier eating and encourage students to get engaged in their health. The event was an incredible success and everyone participated, even if it was through giving out free food! One of my friends said that she would never have thought she’d be interested in joining a ‘health forum’ or would even take part in what might be deemed ‘extracurricular activities’; but she loved the feeling of giving back to the community and being involved in projects that had a real and evident impact.
No matter what your experience is, whether you’ve used the GP practice once in your life or a hundred times; been to the hospital regularly for a long-term condition or just that one time when you broke your wrist, you have a unique angle on our NHS, which is worth gold. Another key point is that if you’re not interested in ‘healthy eating’ or talking directly to your local practice, there are so many other areas of health you could explore; mental health, supporting people with addictions, exercise, exams stress, staying warm in winter, you name it.
You can find out if your GP Practice has a youth forum or group that you can join by researching online, popping in or calling them. You can even contact the NHS Youth Forum at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can do the research for you! It’s also worth investigating how your school, college or university supports students with their physical and mental health. You can give them some suggestions or get involved in setting up projects which could support your peers.
The British Youth Council has been shortlisted as a finalist for two Children and Young People Now Awards – ‘Tne Youth Volunteering and Social Action Award’ and ‘The Children and Young People’s Charity Award’. The nominations are in recognition of the volunteers, partners and staff who came together to ensure over 960,000 young people had their say during UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark campaign in, UK Youth Parliament’s 2015 campaign for better mental health services, ‘Time to Talk’ and it’s most recent campaign on racism and religious discrimination, ‘Don’t Hate, Educate’. The second nomination for Charity Award is for the charity’s work in giving young people a voice through its democracy-based initiative, Youth Voice, across the UK.
UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark campaign has cemented its place as the UK’s largest referendum of young people with more young people having their say year on year. The Make Your Mark campaign gives young people a say on what is discussed by their Members of Youth Parliament in their annual House of Commons debate. Both this year’s topics were also made subjects of British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee inquiries which attract a formal Government response and dialogue between young people and Ministers.
‘Don’t Hate, Educate!’ has seen Members of Youth Parliament working in their communities to reduce racism and racial discrimination. Over the last year, UK Youth Parliament have campaigned, in partnership with Kick It Out, to challenge negative attitudes around race and religion; work with others to educate their communities in order to tackle ignorance about race and religion, and promote integration in their communities.
UK Youth Parliament’s devolved campaign, ‘Time to Talk’, involved Members of Youth Parliament striving to improve young people’s access to school counsellors within their place of learning. The campaign, which was developed in partnership with Youth Access, also saw Members of Youth Parliament call on decision makers to ensure that schools allocate enough time for students to see school counsellors; and that they are safe, professional and youth friendly.
The Children & Young People Now Awards have become the gold standard for everyone working with children, young people and families. Now in their eleventh year, these awards provide a great source of pride and recognition for all those who strive day in, day out, to improve the lives of others. They offer an opportunity to raise the profile of projects and initiatives to funders and the general public.
The awards present a tremendous showcase of learning and best practice from across the country that can be an inspiration to all. They also recognise initiatives from the public, private and voluntary sector that work with children and young people from birth to adolescence as well as their families. Initiatives might be aimed at all children and families within a community or targeted at those who are the most vulnerable or disadvantaged.
Anna Barker, Chair, British Youth Council said: “It’s exciting to see the work of our young people and staff celebrated at a national level. UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark campaign is the largest referendum of young people in the UK, and each year the UK Youth Parliament has managed to reach even more young people but I’m equally pleased to see their mental health campaign and ‘Don’t Hate, Educate’ campaign recognised. Mental health has been a longstanding priority for young people, and racism and religious discrimination, an issue that has become more prevalent post-Brexit, must be tackled in modern Britain.”
James Cathcart, Chief Executive, British Youth Council said: “I’m very proud that the work of the young volunteers, partners and team has been recognised, particularly at time when youth voice and its champions needs to be heard and supported more than ever before”