Spotlight On: Group Voice and Influence at Leeds Young Carers Engaged, Active, Participating (LEAP)
Leeds wishes for all children and young people to be able to express their views, feel heard and be involved in decisions that affect their lives (Child Friendly Leeds wish number three). One of the ways in which young people can share their ideas and influence change within their community is by accessing a youth voice group.
The Voice, Influence and Change Team met with Leeds Young Carers Engaged, Active, Participating (LEAP), a group of young carers supported by Lucy Tomlin-Scargill, Community Engagement Practitioner at Leeds Young Carers Support Service.
LEAP shared information about their involvement in community engagement and local projects:
- NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board: ‘Let’s Cook’ Healthy Cookbook. The young people shared their favourite healthy recipes and accompanying artwork, which were published in a cookbook and launched at a special event in partnership with NHS Wakefield CCG. In addition, the young people took part in healthy living activities, spoke the team from PHINS (School Nursing) and were interviewed by Magpie, about their experiences in lockdown for their #RandomActsofKindess campaign. They also designed, cooked and ate their own healthy pizzas with the support of team from The Singing Pineapple. The young people and their families received copies of the cookbook and a pack of healthy living resources.
- Young Carers Film Project The group created short films sharing their lived experience of being young carers and the impact this has on their lives. They were involved in filming, creating publicity material and planning the launch event involving a big screen, popcorn and awards. These films are now used with Health and Education professionals to raise awareness, aid identification and signpost to support.
- Leeds Community Healthcare Trust: 0-19 Young Carers Pathway and Routine Questioning Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust wanted to develop their work with Young Carers in relation to their individual health needs but also those of the people they care for. As a result of this work, Young Carers are now being more frequently identified and the staff, having done Practice Development training with Leeds Young Carers Support Service, know the referral pathway and can offer appropriate next steps for support.
- Leeds Young Carers Support Service Website The group were involved in the review and update of the current LYCSS website, particularly surrounding preferred language used to talk about their caring role. They also designed posters for the service, that will be displayed across the city, giving information and advice about what a young person can do, if they think they may be a young carer. They also discussed what information they thought should be in the service leaflet and what they would have found useful when they were seeking support.
- Health Watch The group shared their experiences and learned about why good oral health is important. Their views will inform information given to dental practitioners on how best to reach and work with young carers and their families.
A member of the group has also completed their first six months as a volunteer ambassador. Being an ambassador means s/he is involved in planning the sessions and giving ideas for activities and projects, the group could get involved in. S/he also facilitates activities in the session and has designed a mental health resource pack, to support young carers with the challenges they may face and their achievements were celebrated in 2022 when s/he won the Family Action Volunteer Making a Difference award.
The young people shared the things they like and value about their group:
- “Talking to each other” (Tyreas, 16)
- “Having more responsibility over what happens (as a young carer experienced volunteer) and the break where I can be myself and see young people be themselves” (Sophie, 19)
- “I like that we get to talk to other young people and have a safe adult to talk to” (Brooke, 16)
- “The thing I enjoy most about this group is the talk and the people” (Finn, 14)
- “The activities and snacks” (Tilly, 12)
- “I can talk and everyone can let their inner voice out… and snacks” (Scarlett, 11)
- “There’s lots of fun people to meet” (Thomas, 12)
They also shared why they think young people could benefit from being involved in a youth voice group:
- “It’s fun” and “supportive”
- “It’s a place where you can be you”
- “Let it all out and break the barrier”
- “A break from a different friend group”
- “If you like it you might make friends who have similar experience”
- “An opportunity to talk to like minded people in a safe and caring place”
LEAP raised two issues, along with proposed solutions, that they believe decision makers need to be aware of. Firstly, young carers should be able to work collaboratively with health professionals. They propose that all those involved in a person’s day to day care should be included in care plan discussions. Secondly, young people are missing education because their needs have not been met. They propose that all young people should be informed about reasonable adjustments so they know what they are entitled to in order to participate and succeed in learning, particularly in relation to neurodivergence, mental health and bullying.