Care-experienced young people (CEYP) play a critical role in shaping practice in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole’s (BCP) children’s services. Their opinions are key in the decision-making process when recruiting social workers.
Nineteen-year-old Emily is care-experienced and has been on panels interviewing potential social workers.
“I want social workers to show they’re caring, outgoing, hardworking and they really want to make a difference for young people.
“I give them situations, for example, if a young person had a really bad day what would they do to help that young person? We’ve asked for examples of what they have done in the past, maybe if they have had to help a friend, how have they helped them? Because that’s how we want to be helped,” says Emily.
According to Emily, feedback from the care leaver is taken on board and plays an important part in the hiring process at BCP children’s services.
“If there’s three people in there, a young person’s feedback probably plays a good third of it. It’s because they’re going to be working with young people so I think it’s really good for them to get a young person’s opinion,” she says.
There have been times where the professional panel and the young people’s panel have had differing views. Conversations are then had when this occurs and the panel meet to discuss and agree the final offer to the relevant candidate.
Because of lockdown and the impact on young people, BCP really wanted to give them what they were looking for – they had been quite isolated and cut off.
Putting young people first
Ava, a social worker in the children and families first team, has first-hand experience of this. She was interviewed by a care leaver before she was accepted into a role with BCP and thinks that while managers may look at whether the candidate knows procedures and theories, a care leaver might look at how social workers approach young people instead.
The focus on the voice of the child and young person is one that Ava sees in her day-to-day work.
“We do a lot of paperwork, but our first job is working with the young people. There’s a real drive to focus on what young people are saying so I know in all of our visits we have to speak to that child alone so we get their sole view and it’s not tainted by maybe a carer’s or parent’s view.”
Even during her assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE), which she completed in 2022, feedback was sought from many children and young people Ava had worked with, to assess her. She then had to reflect upon what they had said.
“I think that was really useful because it gave me an opportunity to have a one-on-one with a young person and say, ‘actually what can I do better for you?’.”
BCP holds a celebration event for all children and young people in care. Foster families and social workers nominate their children and young people for awards to recognise progress and achievements.
Ava says: “I was there the whole day, it was amazing. I like the fact that all of the young people got a certificate so no one was left out.”
Creating a safe space for care leavers – the 333
It was through consultation with CEYP that a centre designed to improve their access to career, health and financial budgeting advice and a place to ‘chill-out’ was established and became an award-winning space just last year.
Team managers were integral in developing the idea of a safe place for care leavers following feedback from them.
Care leavers wanted somewhere they could go that was friendly, welcoming, non-judgmental, and a place they could call their own. A team manager describes how the 333 hub was conceived.
“Because of lockdown and the impact on young people, BCP really wanted to give them what they were looking for – they had been quite isolated and cut off.
“It is very difficult when you’re a care-experienced young person. You don’t have the same established support networks that you would have with a family, so it was considered very important,” she says.
Many of BCP’s care leavers helped create the space. They were involved right from the beginning, from looking at potential properties for the location, renovating, decorating and choosing what services and activities they needed, even including a shopping trip to Ikea.
Emily was also involved in the creation of 333 and goes there every week. She has made new friends there and especially enjoys playing pool.
“When I was younger I only knew two or three other people in care. I find there’s a lovely group there that usually go and play pool and who are actually really fun to hang out with and it’s nice to be able to learn different things through pool that we share a common passion for.
“I’ve learned so much from them and they’ve learned so much from me. We come from completely different cultures and backgrounds and that one common game that we all love to play, it seems to be like a bonding thing, which is great,” she says.
The 333 won best project of the year at the National Care Leavers Benchmark Forum in 2022.
Feedback from young people
Ava fondly recalls one of the children she worked with, now 15 years old, who sent her this feedback as part of her ASYE:
“You’ve made a difference in my life. You’ve helped me get a school. You’ve helped me with my mental health. You’re always there when I need you even if I can’t get through, you’ll call me back or give me a text to check on me.
“You’ve listened to what I’ve asked and done it. I wouldn’t change anything about you or the work you’ve done with me. You saw me just the right amount. When we first met it was easy getting along with you and we clicked straight away. I think you’re approachable, sociable, sweet and easy to talk to. I’ll be sad when you leave and I want to get you flowers.”
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