In the run-up to Care Day 2022 a presentation has taken place at Stormont aiming to change how planning and review meetings, for children and young people living in and leaving care, are held.
The work of young people at Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC), the event took place at the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings recently.
It saw local young people in care and care leavers present a series of standards for care planning and review meetings.
These standards set out expectations on how meetings should be organised and facilitated to make it easier for young people to engage and meaningfully participate in the decisions being made about their lives. The project was made possible with support from BBC Children in Need.
VOYPIC is a charity with 30 years’ experience in promoting the rights and voices of children in care and care leavers.
It hopes the series of standards, created by local young people with experience of care, will encourage health trusts to look seriously at how the care review process is conducted with the interests of the young person at heart.
Speaking at the event, Alicia Toal, Chief Executive of VOYPIC (Voice of Young People in Care), said: “Young people often tell us they do not feel appropriately supported to take part in the planning and review of their care. We are proud to have supported these young people who have taken it upon themselves to deliver a strategy that they know will work better.
“Through conversations and consultation with their peers, they have collated 12 standards for care planning and review meetings that will place the young person at the centre of the process, and allow them to take more control of the very events that are all about them. They are demanding better and calling for greater participation and engagement in their own planning and meetings.
“It is a major event for the young people and one that we believe can affect change.”
The young people also launched a booklet listing the new standards entitled: MY MEETING: YOUNG PEOPLE’S STANDARDS FOR PARTICIPATION IN REVIEW MEETINGS.*
The 12 standards, which reference articles 3, 12, 13, 16 and 25 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), seek to involve children and young people directly in the planning and preparation of the meeting, its agenda, and the attendees.
Young people in care are also calling for guaranteed access to independent advocacy during the process, input into the location and timing of the meeting as well as the medium by which it is conducted.
Attendees at the presentation, which was sponsored by Colm Gildernew MLA, Chair of the Committee for Health, included representatives from the Health Committee, health trusts and social workers.
The standards were presented by four of the young people involved in their development.
Maddison, (18, Ballymoney), said: “In our discussions with our peers, we found that half had never been to their review meeting. Some did not want to go, while others didn’t feel they knew enough to properly take part in their meetings. As a group, we decided that’s not good enough.”
Neither Martha (24, Belfast) nor Naomi (18 Belfast) attended their meetings while in care. “Going to your meetings, if can be quite scary and make you feel really anxious. The meetings are all about you, but sometimes it just feels like lots of people in a room talking about you as if you’re not there. It’s hard to really engage when it can make you feel invisible,” they commented.
Destinee (18, Cookstown) added: “We knew we had to do something to change that. So, we talked more to other young people in care, asking them about what could be done to help them take part in their meetings. The result is the standards we are launching, hopeful they will help more young people feel able to be part of the decisions about their lives in care.”
The launch event took place two days before Care Day, which will be held on Friday 18 February.
Care Day is the world’s biggest celebration of young people with experience of care, and will include a range of in-person and virtual events that sync with this year’s new theme ‘Together We Create Community’.
Among the events are the online ‘Conversations with the Care Community’, a fun day, cinema screening and paintballing.
VOYPIC, which was created in 1993 by a group of young people in care and professionals, is working together with children and young adults for a better care experience and life after care. The organisations wants to ensure that every child in care in Northern Ireland feels safe, valued and loved, and every young person leaving care does so with dignity and respect, and thrives into adulthood.
VOYPIC’s work is made possible by funding from, amongst others, the Department of Health, the Health and Social Care Board, the National Lottery Community Fund, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Esmee Fairburn Foundation and Children in Need.