Reflections from practice

Here we give some messages from different aspects of health and well-being work with children and families, to help with your consultation planning. All have involved work with those in contact with the youth justice system (YJS) and other secure settings.

Learning from the Teenage Health Demonstration Sites (THDS) about engaging young people in service development in the community

Key messages about involving children and young people

  • Endorse participation work at all levels in your organisation
  • Allocate enough time to prepare for participation work
  • Get monitoring and evaluation systems for participation work in place early on
  • Plan for adequate funding to ensure sustainability
  • Make sure services will be able to adapt in response to young people’s feedback
  • Consider involving experts in youth participation
  • Consider the skills and support that service employees may need
  • Engage young people with a diverse range of experience
  • Plan for the time that will be required to prepare young people for participation
  • Provide suitable incentives to encourage participation
  • Recognise and celebrate achievements

The Association for Young People’s Health has produced 3 briefing guides about the messages from THDS pilot sites in Portsmouth, Northumberland, Hackney and Bolton. The guides are about involving young people in service development, making health services more accessible to young people, and taking services out into the community (Evaluation of the Teenage Health Demonstration Sites programme: final report, Sawtell M et al, Institute of Education, University of London, 2009).


Messages about ‘You’re Welcome’ accreditation in the community

The You’re Welcome system provides quality criteria against which commissioners and service providers can judge the extent to which health services are young people friendly. It has 10 themes, one of which is consultation about service planning and delivery, and it provides a self-assessment tool and guidance for using the tool.

An adolescent drug and alcohol service that gained accreditation reported that its team had benefited from the accreditation process and from the feedback from young people that was part of that assessment. The assessment confirmed the progress the service had made in becoming more young people friendly and it praised the value that team members placed on involving young people in developing the service. Of particular note was the team’s focus on getting continuous feedback from the young people and its open access policy and practice: its flexible outreach approach means that young people are seen where and when they want to be seen.

Feedback from a mystery shopper exercise highlighted the need for the service to build on its good practice of texting young people, and keeping up with other trends in communication methods. It is using its young people’s questionnaire to explore options such as Twitter, SMS/BMS and Facebook.

Messages about embedding consultation in a secure setting

At their regular Monday meeting, young people in Kyloe House secure children's home in Northumberland agree any issues they want to raise with staff. These are discussed at the Wednesday staff meeting, and staff then report back to the young people at their next regular meeting, that evening. This is in keeping with the ethos of the Home: it places emphasis on checking out ‘how is this for you?’ with young people and on raising awareness of what young people can achieve by giving feedback on things that matter to them.

After a review of the young people’s feedback questionnaire, the Home changed to an online version – using SurveyMonkey – because young people found the paper version boring. This is completed at the end of their stay and young people have the option of doing it alone or with help. One year on, a further review led to some refining of the questions. The online responses go direct to the council’s Engagement and Development Team for looked after children who analyse the returns and meet with staff in the Home. The Team also makes quarterly visits to the young people, accompanied by the Client Relations Team, to encourage young people to have their say and make contact with visiting advocates.

Parents and social workers are sent a short survey after a young person leaves the Home and young people receive a follow-up questionnaire after three months.

The current SurveyMonkey questions

How comfortable were you made to feel when you first arrived at Kyloe House?
How could we have made your arrival better?
Did you know everything you needed or wanted to know before you arrived at Kyloe?
How much did you like your bed sit?
During your stay at Kyloe, do you think you were treated fairly?
Were you encouraged to attend your meetings and reviews?
How could your review meetings have been better?
Do you think the Personal Success Programme (PSP) helped you to improve your behaviour?
Did the Individual Programme (IP) work help you?
Please tell us anything good or bad about your IP sessions.
Has IP work shown you new skills to use when you leave Kyloe House?
Were there any subjects you would have liked which weren’t on the timetable?
How much did you like the Kyloe House School?
How much do you think you learnt at Kyloe House School?
Do you think your social worker visited enough?
Do you think your social worker helped you throughout your stay at Kyloe house?
What do you think of the following services at Kyloe House - school nurse, hairdresser, dentist, optician, psychologist, doctor, advocate?
Did you have contact while you were in Kyloe House?
Were you happy with the way we managed your family contact?
If you have experienced the mobility process whilst at Kyloe House, how well did you think it was done?
Do you feel ready to move on?
Do you feel that people have listened to your wishes about where you are going when you leave Kyloe House?
What did you enjoy most at Kyloe House?
Did all the staff listen and respect your views?
Was there anything else you would have liked to see or do at Kyloe House?
Can you tell us 3 things to make Kyloe House a better place?
What advice would you give a young person who was coming to Kyloe House?

Other messages from practice are about:

Thinking carefully about what you do at the start and end of consultation work. This is about taking time to plan the work, piloting the material to be used, giving feedback to participants in the form of summary information and the emerging action plan, telling participants what will happen to the information they have provided, and taking advice throughout (in this case from the African-Caribbean Family Support Project, the CAMHS Strategy Group and the BME Steering Group). (Understanding the emotional wellbeing and mental health needs of BME children and young people in Greater Nottingham, tanc, 2006.)

Planning consultation that takes a whole-organisation approach. The governor of a young offender institution (YOI) sought to explore ways of improving the emotional well-being of boys in his care, through a study of all aspects of the daily life of the establishment. It included observation of activities throughout the day and compared information collected from 25 young people, 12 parents during their family visit, and 47 healthcare and other staff. ( Emotional well-being at Wetherby YOI: a review of the young people’s journey in custody, RyanTunnardBrown, 2008.)

Giving and getting feedback. A YOI's specialist unit, for boys experiencing difficulties with the normal custody regime, has adopted a notably participatory approach. This has been promoted through recruiting staff from the local community to work alongside experienced officers, to forge a new culture, and through offering all staff high levels of training and supervision. Young people are active participants in their own case management and in consultation forums, and there is a range of easy-to-use ways of recording their views and aspirations. Staff report high satisfaction with the impact of this way of working on the young people’s behaviour and their own job satisfaction, commenting: ‘It’s about getting the whole ethos of participation embedded.’ (Tell them not to forget about us: a guide to practice with looked after children in custody, National Children's Bureau, 2006.)

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