Guest post

by Christy Walsh and Gavin Redhead, CANW and Blackburn with Darwen Council

Partners Christy Walsh, Resource Development Manager at CANW and Gavin Redhead, Children & Young People’s Participation Officer for Blackburn with Darwen Council write about their involvement in the Working with Young People project.

There is a strong ethos of partnership working across Blackburn with Darwen and this is very evident in the desire to involve and support vulnerable children and young people to influence and shape services they are involved with. To facilitate participation activity we have established a network of 20 ‘Participation Champions’, covering council services and partner agencies. The participation champions encourage their services to engage children and young people and share best practice and participation activity at regular network meetings. CANW have played a significant part in supporting participation activity and Christy has shared the responsibility of delivering training to children and young people and accrediting their achievements through awarding bodies like AQA. We also support children and young people to deliver children’s rights training to a multi-​agency audience of practitioners, foster carers and corporate parents.

When Leapfrog approached the participation network to offer support to design new tools to improve communication between adults and children and young people, we agreed that this was a fantastic opportunity, especially for the young people who would take a lead role in the project. Between the Council and CANW, we were able to identify a group of young people to take part in a taster session followed by a two day residential. 

The young people can be quite challenging to work with at times, due to their vulnerabilities, but the team at Leapfrog did an amazing job of turning their ideas into practical physical tools.

The Benefits and Impact

Raising aspirations — Government data consistently illustrates that children looked after achieve lower education and quality of life outcomes than their peers. Enabling a group of Children Looked After the opportunity to work with professionals within a university setting helps raise their aspirations of attending university themselves.

Self-​esteem– Young people that took part in the co-​design project thoroughly enjoyed the experience and were able to create a legacy that will continue beyond their own involvement, this has enabled them to feel proud of their achievements and has raised their self-esteem.

The close partnership working between CANW, BwD and Leapfrog has been an essential aspect of the successful delivery of the young people’s project. Each partner has taken the responsibility for different aspects of the project from recruitment of young people, completion of necessary paperwork, delivery, supervision and reporting. This has enabled the project to move from inception to successful completion. We look forward to seeing the tools being implemented by practitioners across the United Kingdom and even further afield.