The Children's Commissioner's Takeover Challenge has been a timely reminder of the merits of inviting children and young people to participate in and challenge decisions about their care and the way services are designed around them. It was recently the privilege of the Department of Health to host two takeover challenge days with young people in Whitehall on 1 and 9 December.
Supported by the Young People’s Health Partnership and the National Children’s Bureau, the first event involved the Children's Health and Wellbeing Partnership hearing from 14 youth representatives as they explained what young people with long-term conditions need and want from the health system. Jane Ellison, our Minister for Public Health, was also present and emphasised the value she places in hearing and responding to the voices of young people.
The Partnership brings together leaders from national and local government and key health system organisations to improve children and young people's health. The Partnership is co-chaired by Jon Rouse, Director General of Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnership, and Mark Rogers, President, Solace and Chief Executive, Birmingham City Council. On this occasion though, Jon shared the chair with Lucy Watts who campaigns on behalf of charities and ‘those without a voice.’
“I felt we were very much listened to,” said Lucy, reflecting on the day. “Every young person there had something to say. Health professionals, commissioners and policy-makers all make decisions on behalf of young people, but without [their] input, how do they know this is in [our] best interests?”
Jon Rouse agreed: “This year, young people shaped the agenda and led sessions with leaders from across the health and wellbeing system. The discussions ranged from young people’s experience of cancer diagnosis and developmentally appropriate care, through to the rights of children and young people in the NHS Constitution. They provided valuable insights which will help us guide and shape future service provision with the needs of young people at their heart. We are committed to reviewing how the Partnership can take forward the ideas for positive change and will report back on progress to the young participants.”
Then, on 9 December, 26 young people were invited to actively support and provide feedback on the work of the children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing policy team. This session was part of wider engagement work to support the development of children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing policy and the implementation of Future in mind – the previous Government’s report on the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Taskforce.
The policy team invited major partners commissioned to develop programmes of work to address the issues young people had outlined. This included inviting Time to Change to share and receive feedback on their latest anti-stigma campaign and receive views on future work. Their impressions of – and suggestions for – informing the next phase of the NHS Choices Youth Mental Health Hub were also sought.
Alistair Burt, our Minister of State for Community and Social Care held a question and answer session and outlined the importance of their involvement. The day concluded with Claire Bethel, Deputy Director of the team, providing certificates signed by Alistair for all attendees. Both policy officials and Alistair are committed to working with interested members of the group, to make sure views are heard and acted upon.
The sound of engagement
We were lucky to grab a few minutes with participants of the 9 December event.
Meanwhile, the Partnership is keener than ever to hear about examples of local engagement with children and young people. Please send your ideas and examples to: ChildrensHealthandWellbeingPartnership@dh.gsi.gov.uk