The voice of the child in Doncaster is getting louder and clearer, thanks to several new schemes developed by the Doncaster Children’s Services Trust.
And the appointment of the first two modern apprentices is the latest development in our programme to put children and young people at the centre of everything we do.
It is hoped that care leavers Mica and Becci can help the Trust connect with even more young people and further help to shape future services.
As the first of its kind in the UK, the Trust’s aim has been to transform and innovate the way children’s services have historically been delivered - not just in Doncaster but across the country - and to make sure that young people help drive service delivery.
At the forefront of the changes initiated by the Trust is the Young Advisors scheme, introduced by Chief Executive Paul Moffat. As part of this, young people in care and care leavers tell Paul and the senior leadership team how to build services for the benefit of themselves and other young people.
Mica and Becci are two of the group of advisors who have already played a vital part in large scale events, including the Trust’s series of staff summits and its second anniversary celebration. The latter was attended by Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families Edward Timpson and the UK’s Chief Social Worker Isabelle Trowler.
During these events, the advisors shared their experiences of growing up in care, to help delegates understand the need to transform services. They also updated delegates on the journey towards those changes. In addition, they delivered presentations alongside service heads on how they have helped with a review of residential services - including advising against single sex homes and offering suggestions of how new residents could best be introduced into the fold.
They have been involved in more than 35 interview panels to help directly appoint, from the Chief Executive to frontline social workers; and been down to Westminster to talk to MPs about the need to have contact with their siblings in care.
It is also not unusual for the young advisors to be around the offices. They come in for a variety of reasons but for many it is to gain some work experience. And, say Trust staff, it reminds them why they work there.
One of Becci and Mica’s friends and Young Advisor colleagues has been instrumental in helping the Trust to understand the perspective of growing up in care as a gay teenager.
As part of their apprentice role, Becci and Mica will also be studying for a Children and Young People’s Workforce qualification.
Commenting on her role as an advisor, Becci said: “I was really shy when I first became an advisor but now I love doing the events and advising Paul and the managers on all sorts of things that affect children and young people.”
Mica says it is great to have a proper focus, having felt a bit adrift since leaving school.
“Through the advisor role, I have gained confidence and a sense of purpose. I now know that I would like to be a social worker and the apprenticeship is the first step towards this,” she said.
Both young women are impressed by the level of influence they are given at the Trust and the fact that people actually listen to them.
“The Young Advisor role is not just a token gesture. Things actually do change because of what we say,” says Becci.
For example, Young Advisors told the Trust how the transition into 18+ was not adequate and, in response, we now operate a gradual integrated service transition into adulthood, starting two years earlier at the age of 16.
“It used to be that everyone wanted to be involved in your care right up to the last day you were 17, then, on your 18th birthday, you were on your own.” said Mica.
“Nobody was there for you. It was very scary,” said Becci, adding: “Now young people are supported through the transition and not just cut adrift.”
Chief Executive Paul Moffat said: “At the Trust, we have been very clear that we are about young people building our services for other young people. The Young Advisors scheme ensures that we listen to what matters to children and young people and that that informs everything we do.
“Our young people help to ground us and to focus on what’s actually important, not from a corporate or older adult point of view but from the perspective of a child, teenager, or young adult.
“In addition, the Young Advisor scheme has given those involved a huge boost in confidence and maturity. They have learnt a whole raft of real life skills, which will all help towards future education and employment opportunities.
“We are really pleased to be able to offer a total of seven young people apprenticeships at the Trust.”
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