Listening to what’s important to young care leavers

care-leaver-group-edit-4

Following an email exchange with the group lead, Healthwatch Central West London’s Youth Engagement Manager, Alex, attended Westminster Council’s ‘Tuesday Group’ in March to run an engagement workshop that would start discussions with young care leavers.

The Tuesday Group is a weekly meeting run by Westminster Council Looked After Children (LAC) and Leaving Care Service located in the heart of the borough near Church Street.

The group hosts a variety of activities and gets together every week in their welcoming and expansive kitchen to cook a recipe before sitting down to share the resulting dish. The week Alex joined, pancakes were on the menu!

The purpose of joining the group was to identify what was important to individuals and identify key themes in relation to health and care. Alex went prepared with a set of exercises to start the discussion…

Group Lead and Participation & Independent Visitors Officer, Debbie Onyemelukwe, said:

“Thanks so much again for coming! It was great to have you over and see the young people engaged in your session. They had positive feedback.”

 

Alex shares how the session went and what was discussed:

When I arrived, their pancake mix was well underway.

Care Leavers are a cohort of young people who we have not engaged with directly before in the Bi-Borough so I was very keen to sit down with this group, listen to them and get to know them a little bit.

On my visit, there were 9 young people aged 16-23 in attendance and for most, English wasn’t their first language and they were from countries such as Eritrea and Sudan.

After an initial icebreaker, we set about doing an activity that I have used successfully before with groups. Participants were asked to create and draw an imaginary young person on paper in small groups and then create a persona for that person, followed by these steps:

  1. After a few minutes of development, I encouraged them to think about what their young person might be experiencing, positive and negative, to do with their wellbeing. I asked the group to think about the challenges they might be facing and to think about what they could do to address them and suggest that they can draw on personal experiences or the experiences of those they know, but it is stressed that the whole exercise is anonymous so no recognisable personal information will ever be shared.
  2. After 15 minutes or so, each group feeds back to the group.

Due to the varying levels of English in the group we used smiling and frowning emojis to help to explain the task, especially step 2, with brilliant support from Debbie and her colleagues.

This sort of ‘conduit’ activity can be effective in allowing young people the freedom to express without necessarily feeling the pressure of speaking about themselves.

Here are some of the images they created during the session:

Outcomes

Several themes emerged from the session and include:

  • The importance of having a regular place to connect with friends and other young people, just like ‘Tuesday Group.’
  • Committing to getting to know the area around you, especially if it’s new
  • The importance of staying fit and healthy

Knowledge of local services
During part 3 of the activity we explored how the activity went and the young people displayed good awareness of the routes to finding support e.g., going to their GP and looking on the Childline website.

Information and signposting

To wrap up the workshop, I shared some Healthwatch CWL ‘Share your experience’ postcards  and encouraged them to complete and return them to me in their own time if they’d like to share more with us after today I also shared the address of the Young Healthwatch webpage and emphasised the support that is available there, and lastly, I left a handful of Young Healthwatch flyers in case there was any interest in volunteering with us.

I have since been in touch with Debbie about returning and I am looking into engaging with the corresponding group in Kensington & Chelsea.