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Guest Article: Leicestershire County Council: Engaging and involving young people

Article by Sacha Johnson, Leicestershire County Council

There is an art to consultation; a method of weaving together council strategies, and the voice of a diverse group of stakeholders to influence the Council’s decisions on services that impact their lives. At Leicestershire County Council (LCC) we strive to build a consistent culture and set of practices that reflect the organisation’s vision to achieve proportionate, lawful, and meaningful consultation and engagement. Embedded within our stakeholders are young people. We at LCC pride ourselves on being an inclusive organisation. When it comes to involving young people in council projects, consultation, and decision-making processes, LCC recognises the true value of young people’s participation and involvement across all of our departments.

In line with one of LCC’s strategic visions, we are working towards becoming clean and green. One of the strategic outcomes is to encourage people to act now and tackle climate change. We have launched our Net Zero initiative to achieve Net Zero by 2045. Projects carried out in the last 12 months with our young people include:

  • Net Zero – Youth Focus Groups organised and facilitated by Participation People (Outsourced by LCC)
  • Net Zero – Community surveys carried out with young people by The IMPACT Team (Youth and Justice)
  • Net Zero young people’s poster competition

    (The winning poster)

Other consultations which have involved young people are:

  • Sexual health services – Young people consulted on what the sexual health service should offer and how it might work

Young People are crucial to society and as a Council, we want to ensure we are not only tapping into their skills and talents but are serving them the best way we can. Building on our existing services, the Communities Team has recently started an exercise using the IWill Power of Youth Charter www.iwill.org.uk/organisations/the-power-of-youth/  as a framework to empower more young people to shape decisions, take social action and make a positive difference.

So far, we have heard from other Councils such as Manchester in terms of their approach to working with young people and we have held a series of internal staff workshops picking up best practices and opportunities from across the Council. Our next steps are to engage with young people sharing our ambitions, get their views, and ultimately put together a collaborative agreement that will focus on key themes that matter to young people, and that will be reviewed by the Council over time.  So lots to do, but most definitely an exciting journey ahead!

The Children and Wellbeing Service (CFWS) and the Children and Family Service (CFS) continue to carry out some great work engaging and involving young people in services that are designed for them. This has proved beneficial in raising the aspirations of young people, learning, and practicing new skills including confidence building, teamwork, debating, decision-making, working with others, self-advocacy, and listening. In line with LCC’s strategic vision, we aim to improve opportunities, build greater communities, and keep people safe and well. Providing a safe space and creating a nurturing environment for the young people that access our services is just the starting point.

The County Youth Council Leicestershire (CYCle) is one of many youth programs LCC has. The group is made up of eight regular attendees who have been referred by CFWS and CFS. The group has been involved in:

  • Consultation (Volunteering & SEND local offer)
  • Interview Panels – Young people are trained and take part in interviewing candidates and hold a 50% weighting of the final decision
  • Behaviour and codes of practice of CFWS staff
  • Service meeting delivery for CFWS staff
  • Presentation of Lundy Model of participation to a wider CFS audience
  • Presentation of what the group achieves at service and partnership board meetings
  • Community-led projects: 2021/2022 Police, Violence reduction network, GP and young carers, LLR Healthy Relationships project & 2022/2023 Health, Crime prevention projects, County Council Voice work

Two members of the group are also members of the Youth Parliament.

Speaking to Michal from CYCle highlighted the amazing work that has been carried out and the projects CYCle is involved in.

Michal shared: “I enjoy being involved in various projects within the Council and being able to share my beliefs and opinions irrespective of my age. One of the best forms of acknowledgment, to show that a young person’s voice has been captured and has influenced decision-making is feedback”.

As part of the care leaver’s service, we offer a monthly youth group called SYPAC (Supporting Young People After Care). This group is crucial in supporting our young people. This is a space where young people can spend time with other care leavers and staff. They receive nurture and care as well as practical advice and support. Food and soft drinks are provided, and we eat together as a group. We have quizzes, games, and competitions for fun. We invite guest speakers such as Leicestershire Cares, Alderman Newton, job coaches, etc. From these sessions some of our young people have attended courses to grow their confidence and work on their job skills, others have gained apprenticeships, and others have joined boards and given opinions from a care leaver perspective.

Attending SYPAC has supported all of the young people that attend to achieve better mental health, cope better emotionally, and be less lonely as they feel part of a community that they know they will see every month.

The running of the sessions is facilitated by the care leaver team staff but is guided by the young people and also when they reach 25 those young people start to take over some of the responsibility for running the group.

 

About the author: Sacha Johnson

I joined the Policy team in September 2022 as an Engagement and Consultation Manager at Leicestershire County Council. My role within the team focuses on providing advice and support to officers across the council to ensure that public engagement activity and consultation follow best practices and current case law. I currently lead all consultations. Before this, I worked as the IMPACT team coordinator, overseeing the day-to-day running of a detached youth service working in communities county-wide. I am also a qualified Social Worker and have previously worked in the Children in Care sector. Young people have been my focus in my career thus far and working in the Policy team has enabled me to widen my reach, knowledge, and skills to ensure that young people are involved in the Council’s processes as much as possible. I am passionate about capturing the voices of the seldom heard and building relationships across departments to widen our reach and deepen our understanding of issues.

I would like to say a special thank you to everyone that has contributed to this article.

Louisa Kelly (Care Leavers Team Manager), Sabrina Malik (Communities Team CEX), Michal (CYCle representative), and Lee Kramer (Senior youth worker).

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