In 2016, I became a member of the Young Researchers’ Advisory Panel (YRAP) which is part of the University of Bedfordshire’s International Centre: Researching Child Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking. The YRAP advises colleagues within the Centre and anyone one else who wishes to seek young people’s views on topics such as effective participation, improving services for young people and training for professionals. We will also be carrying out research ourselves. Thanks to funding from the Samworth Foundation, the YRAP is currently expanding, and has recruited several new members this year.
Being part of the YRAP has helped me grow in confidence and develop my public speaking skills as I attended conferences and delivered presentations. I was introduced to a structure, a work ethic and knew what it was like to be part of a team.
In 2018, whilst I was participating in the Young Researchers’ Advisory Panel, I joined what is now known as Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership. I became involved in the Safeguarding Partnership through a local youth council I was part of. I became the first ‘Young lay member’ within Derby and Derbyshire. On the Safeguarding Partnership, I ensure that it is child and young person centred as I bring a young person’s perspective and keep the services relevant and appropriate to their needs.
On the Safeguarding Partnership, I am able to use the knowledge I possess to suggest ways in which my area could be made safer for children and young people. The various topics I explore within the YRAP are related to the Safeguarding Partnership such as criminal exploitation, child sexual exploitation, sexual violence, trafficking, mental health and contextual safeguarding. I am able to transfer my knowledge of these topics into each group I am a member of.
On the Safeguarding Partnership, I am part of the subgroup Exploitation and Vulnerable Young People (EVYP). In meetings, we discuss sensitive and vital topics and issues that affect children and young people daily. These include: mental health, health services, policing and education.
Being involved with the Safeguarding Partnership for two years has presented me with various opportunities to make a difference and help other young people. As an example, I participated in creating a video with other professionals regarding reporting sexual harm and the journey through that process. This video is accessible on YouTube: https://youtu.be/BeGXmYbz29Y
We have now recruited two more young people as ‘young lay members’ on the Safeguarding Partnership, and I am supporting them to transition into their new roles. This ensures that a young person and child centred perspective is maintained as the Partnership undergoes further transitions. Having young people participate in matters that they care about so deeply gives the matter a young person perspective, something that it lacked beforehand. Young people have their voices heard, they matter and are being listened to. The approach is now young people centred.
As part of the YRAP, in 2017, I advised the researchers on the Alexi Project. We identified 10 key messages expressed to professionals who worked with children and young people affected by child sexual exploitation. These were transformed into postcards, which are available on the Alexi project website at www.alexiproject.org.uk.
My involvement in both the YRAP and the Safeguarding Partnership has helped raise awareness amongst practitioners, researchers and policy makers of the importance of engaging children and young people in their work and within their organisations. My work has inspired other young people to discover what they have access to, how they can participate in decisions that have an impact on them and how they can make a difference in their local area as well as nationally.
One of my favourite quotes from Albert Einstein, and I think resonates very much with what you’ve read, is “the mind that opens to new ideas never returns to its original size”.
By Keeley Howard