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Championing young people in Norfolk

10 July 2020

Young people in Norfolk are being championed this week for the phenomenal way they are coping with the disruption of Coronavirus and the fantastic contribution many are making to shaping public services for youth during the pandemic and beyond.

The county’s population of approximately 147,000 children and adolescents aged between 10 and 25 have been coping with huge changes to their daily routines and activities and dealing with lockdown restrictions to contacts with friends and family since March.

But furthermore between 500 and 750 young people are estimated to have been directly engaged in participation groups working with a range of Norfolk organisations to inform and help improve the way local services are built for and communicated to young people.

Groups including Norfolk’s seven Youth Advisory Boards (YABS), Norfolk Young Carers Forum (NYCF) and Norfolk’s In Care Council (NiCC), for young people in care and leaving care, have all been meeting regularly online. Their work has included: producing monthly colourful newsletter The Scoop; giving interviews as part of working on media campaigns, and reaching out to vulnerable people in local care homes with letters, cards and postcards.

In addition to this, representatives from these youth organisations have formed a brand new online consultation group, which is the first step to a more formal Young People’s Advisory Group (YPAG). The YPAG will work with a planned new Norfolk and Waveney Children’s and Young People’s Alliance Board. The aim is to ensure the voice of young people is heard loud and clear in the development of services for young people across agencies from mental health to staying safe.

The online consultation group of young people has cut its teeth during lockdown by participating in weekly Zoom meetings with Norfolk County Council. They have reviewed and made recommendations on a range of subjects including:

  • The Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership media campaign to keep young people safe
  • How schools can ease the return to educational settings 
  • A new online mental wellbeing community
  • A survey on their experiences of lockdown
  • Shared the Policing the Pandemic consultation on their social media accounts
  • And they will be participating in work to develop and improve mental health services for children and young people in the coming weeks

Norfolk County Council, working with partners including Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health Services (NCYPHS) and Norfolk Constabulary, as part of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership (NSCP), is not only issuing a vote of thanks to all these individuals for the way they have strived to keep active and well and supported their friends but is also recognising their more formal efforts to work with organisations across the public sector.

Chris Robson, Chairman of the NCSP, said: “I am so inspired by everything I am hearing and reading about the efforts of young people.

“The stories here clearly show the huge role they play both informally in supporting each other but also in shaping their own destinies in Norfolk by working more formally with organisations to give their insight into how we can best develop our services and make them the most effective they possibly can be for those who need them.

“But I do also want to issue a reminder that we’re still here to offer support. Lockdown may be gradually easing but times are still far from normal and young people should feel confident in reaching out for help if they need it. And if you feel unsafe or scared at home please feel confident to call for help.”

Cllr John Fisher said: “It’s really important that we recognise how well young people across the county have coped in these unprecedented circumstances, which have turned their lives upside down pretty much overnight.

“We also know times have been particularly hard for those young people caring for family members. These young carers should feel proud of themselves and know how proud the county is of their efforts.

“I would also like to thank those youngsters who have worked with participation groups. This is so important to us as a council, all young voices matter and will make a vital difference to the way services are shaped for all.”

Children and young people can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for help and advice about a whole host of issues such as: keeping active, healthy relationships, staying safe and emotional health.

Children feeling unsafe or scared at home can contact Norfolk County Council on our dedicated phone line 0344 800 8029 or the NSPCC’s Childline on 0800 1111 or log on to www.childline.org.uk where message boards can be accessed and it’s possible to talk to other children experiencing the same worries.

Anyone with concerns about a child or family, should contact the County Council on 0344 800 8020. In an emergency contact the police on 999. In a non-emergency the police can be contacted on 101.

Panel on lockdown for youngsters

Lockdown facts and figures

The Unicef UK Youth Advisory Board found that during lockdown:

  • 40% of young people were worried about not seeing their friends
  • One in three were concerned about parents or carers getting ill
  • 17% were worried about feeling unsafe at home 
  • 13% were worried about the safety of their friends 
  • 58% said they were finding home schooling stressful 
  • 18% were worried about falling behind at school

In Norfolk young people told us they had found lockdown tough and it had often left them feeling lonely stuck at home, frustrated with boredom, stressed with schoolwork, and feeling down at missing family, friends and routine activities.

Some of the ways they told us they have coped and helped others cope were by:

  • Communicating with friends by playing online games
  • Chatting on the phone
  • Sending texts and funny photos
  • Getting outside either for a walk or a bike ride
  • Talking to the trusted adults in their lives either in their household or by phone
  • Contacting struggling friends for a chat
  • To date 4,280 people have actively engaged with safety messages issued by the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership on Instagram and Facebook
  • 200 more children and young people contacted the ChatHealth text line run by Norfolk CYPHS

Participation groups

There are some amazing groups you can join in Norfolk if you’re a young person who wants to make a contribution.

Norfolk In Care Council

You can join if you are a child in care in Norfolk, or a care leaver aged between 16 and 25. There are regular local monthly meetings and two trips a year and you’ll be able to help evaluate how well services are working, help commission new services, and offer advice on improvements and work directly with social workers and managers, in some cases taking part in interviewing them, to make things better for all children in care and care leavers.

To find out more email nicc@norfolk.gov.uk

Norfolk Young Carers Forum

There are reckoned to be at least 11,000 young carers and young adult carers in Norfolk who look after a family member. The forum is open to all and will help you raise awareness and make a difference about the issues which affect you. There are lots of different ways for you to get involved including helping plan and deliver campaigns, meeting other young carers, taking part in special events such as conferences and training for adults and training for yourself to improve your skills and confidence.

For more information contact the team on nycf@caringtogether.org

Youth Advisory Boards

Norfolk’s seven local award-winning Youth Advisory Boards co-ordinated by MAP and MTM are bodies of young people aged 13 to 18 and professionals who meet on a bi-monthly basis and operate very locally. They identify issues that affect young people and work with key partners to plan and commission new services and provision and build local community capacity to meet young people’s needs. Breckland Youth Advisory Board recently received the Organisation of the Year Award at the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation Awards after hosting a Young People against Bullying Conference.

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