Having arrived home from “the National contracting and commissioning training event” I decided to share Timeout’s Participation process. I took part in a very interesting workshop around Participation and went away feeling how far down the road our young people are and what they have to offer others. I have to say M, a young person from Sandwell, was fabulous as an ambassador for young peoples ‘voices’ to be heard.

Timeout has been championing Participation for some two years We had always encouraged small scale involvement but Manchester Metropolitans Youth and Community students in 2010 led in developing our then ‘voice’ in a student led school council. This idea had been around a while but having dedicated adult time to the process made the difference. Our Young People trained in roles as facilitators and delivering to our staff and indeed OFSTED, they produced a young person’s guide and power point in what they thought Participation was in the Company. This was the final product produced through T, one of our past young people. This led onto developing roles in recruitment and not the tokenistic approach but genuine contribution to decision making. ‘Participation Works’ thought the practice good enough for publication around ‘hard to reach’ young people and can be found in their guides available on line.

Timeout didn’t stop there, we wanted to have validation and recognition of our Participatory practice and invited a LILAC assessment to be undertaken, October 2011 gained us 6 of the 7 petals in recognition and we are pleased to say by June 2012 we have gained the full award! Well done to our young people and staff members. Suddenly participation is giving young people ‘Their’ Voice, not a joining in of adult led activities!

Young people who have been part of our care and or Education return to support our current cohort of young people. They share their thoughts and bring with them a wealth of ideas, shared experiences and they know the reality of the impact of Participation on their futures.

Participation continues to grow-next stage it’s the continuing development of the young people shared group work and development forum. I’m looking forward to sharing the role of chair with J and K, J’s got tons to offer in ideas and leadership skills. First meeting last night, all those who attended went away with self-identified tasks, roles and responsibilities. Alongside this sharing goes the ‘J’s Join’ food experience- supper turned out to be crisps, sausage rolls, scotch eggs and copious amounts of M’s chocolate cake! Glad we weren’t looking at healthy eating. Alongside this the young person’s newsletter is in first phase. L took on responsibility for putting a draft forward for others to contribute to. Working with G, she drafted her ideas and those of other school based students at Elland House School. Early stages but a process is beginning to form. It’s not our time scales it’s theirs we work to. They own the work.

Where next? All of this leads to our next development task. Working to Rights Respecting Schools / Company status, through UNICEF. Action plans are out in our homes and doesn’t stop here.

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