Involving children and young people in developing social care
Case study 15: Speakout Initiative, Staffordshire Youth Service
Service provided by organisation
Speakout, established in 1999, is managed by Staffordshire Youth Service and is the county council's process for consulting and involving young people in community action. It consists of eight district youth forums whose members are from local youth groups, and a collection of young people from social services forums representing young carers and young people in care and leaving care. Each district youth forum also elects four young people to represent them at the Youth Action Kouncil (YAK) at a countywide level. There is also annual elections for the Staffordshire UK Youth Parliament (UKYP), when eight young people are elected to represent the young people of Staffordshire at county, regional and national level
Characteristics of children/young people involved
Mainly aged 11-19, and of mixed ethnicity and gender. Special needs schools are also offered places on the Kouncil.
How participation has been developed
Young people's elections are held for positions on the UKYP and are well publicised throughout schools in Staffordshire. Over a third of the young people in the area voted in the last election.
Each local forum meets fortnightly. The Youth Action Kouncil (YAK) - which, since 1999, has increased its membership from 32 to 56 young people - meets monthly and has its own budget. It also holds quarterly meetings of the Leaders' Advisory Body, comprising some elected members and heads of services. It has also met with the cabinet to look at key decision-making.
Positions on YAK, such as chair, finance and promotions, are all occupied by young people. The agendas for the forums are set by young people, and decisions over funding and applying for external bids are made in partnership with the Kouncil. Young people have been involved in staff recruitment within the youth service and county council and have recently changed the YAK constitution. The project communicates and consults with young people via a website and text-messaging service.
The forums have carried out research with other young people into local services, consulted with decision-makers, had input into county council and youth websites, informed the youth service's five-year review plan and organised conferences on issues including policing, community safety and health.
YAK has created a youth charter, and participation is written into all job descriptions. There are eight participation worker roles across the county. Young people receive accreditation and a letter of recommendation from the council for their involvement.
Changes or improvements as a result of children and young people's participation
- Four working party groups have been established on the key targets that young people have identified, to ensure that the forums do not get consulted on everything and are able to prioritise what they have identified as important.
- Produced a participation strategy for Staffordshire.
- Produced a youth charter for all young people in the youth service
- Young people are involved in the recruitment of all youth work staff. For this, they receive recruitment and selection training.
- Through consultation and the work of the forums, some local services have made their services more appropriate to young people - e.g. new transport routes have been introduced.
'The needs and expectations of young people have changed. Become more versatile and adopted the needs of everyone. Have had achievement in some areas.' (Young person)
Evidence of outcomes from participation
The project has produced the following documentation to evidence the development of participation:
- reports of conferences
- mission statement of youth forum
- 'How we want to be heard' - a guide by young people for decision-makers
- youth charter for youth service.
Contact person and role: Gail Lucas (participation coordinator)
Address: Talbot Street, Rugeley, Staffordshire WS15 2SG
Telephone: 01889 256 188