CLNM visits the Childrens and Families Minister
Posted 8th March 2022
The House Project approach started with young people telling us that their leaving care experience was ‘shite’! Rather than trying to polish something that wasn’t working we needed to do something different. In recognising the value and resourcefulness of young people and their ability to be the architects of a system that could work for them we put them right at the heart of the decision making process. This was a challenge for young people and an even bigger challenge for professionals and the systems that they worked in. This played out in many ways but with an unstinting commitment to young people, the House Project journey began.
For young people who had previously not been heard and would argue that they had no say or control over their lives it was necessary to put the scaffolding and support around them. Relational work was key to our approach and the Young People’s Steering Group was developed. Over time young people changed this language as it was ‘’too much like a youth club’’ and they were here to ‘’do things and change things’’. The Care Leavers National Movement (CLNM) was born. Whilst this has become the platform for the amplification of the voice of young people we were also very conscious that we could not replicate the ‘professional’ user voice often seen in LAs and that it needed to engage and be representative of all young people in our community. To support this CLNM committed to undertaking Peer Evaluations.
Last year young people were trained as Peer Evaluators. They completed their Evaluation and presented their findings to Conference in Manchester which they designed and delivered. This was picked up by Mark Riddell, National Implementation Adviser for Care Leavers and they were subsequently invited to share their report findings and recommendations with Will Quince, Minister for Children and Families. They were excited, articulate and passionate in their delivery as to how the House Project approach had supported them and how things needed to change for all young people leaving care. The Minister described the meeting as ‘informative’ and ‘inspirational’
All too often I hear the language that young people need a voice with justification as to why its the adults/professionals who know best and need to make all the decisions. This is not right. Young people are experts in how the care system works for them and let’s be clear, young people have a voice. The question is whether we want to hear it. And if we do, what are we going to do to enable it to be heard and what are we to do once it has been heard. Indeed it was Bryant McGill who said ‘’our children can be the greatest teachers if we are humble enough to receive their lessons’’. In the National House Project the voice of young people has driven our approach and the recommendations from the Peer Evaluation will inform our business plan for the next 12 months. Moreover, we have committed to working with young people to develop a peer mentoring programme across projects and an improved local health and wellbeing offer.
We continue to be amazed and humbled by the insight, creativity and desire of young people to not only make the care system fairer for all but to improve it for all. Enabling their voice to be heard is critical to achieving this and on Monday 21st February, nine young people took the voice of the House Project community to Whitehall. We thank those involved who made this happen but now that they have been heard we wait to see the difference it makes.