Department for Education hears young people’s call for youth representation

Written by Dmitrijs Meiksans, 15

Member of Young NCB and Member of Youth Parliament for North West Hampshire

Back in July, NCB started a conversation with young people to find out what support they needed from their schools and colleges  to help them recover from the impact of COVID-19.

They created an empowering video of young people of different backgrounds, speaking about what they’ve missed during lockdown and what they might need to bounce back from the national lockdown and the pandemic – with things like independence, opportunities, important life events and mental health support being lost during the depths of the pandemic. You can find the video by clicking here.

Then, from there, the powerful #ChildrenAtTheHeart campaign was launched, supported by 150 youth charities and organisations, calling on the Government to put children at the heart of the recovery process.

It was a really great feeling to see all the amazing organisations coming together to achieve something that is so important: for young people’s voices to be championed and considered as we head through the next steps of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Following on from the social media buzz of the campaign, I was one of three young people that attended the live-streamed All Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC)’s meeting on the 16th July where we had the chance to speak to high level Governmental and Parliamentary figures, including the Minister for Children and Families, The Rt Hon Vicky Ford; the Shadow Minister for Early Years, Tulip Siddiq MP and Tim Loughton MP, who continues to be a champion for young people’s voices within Parliament.

It was encouraging to hear so much support for the work NCB does from senior officials within Government and beyond. The Department for Education (DfE), after the APPGC meeting, suggested a specific meeting to discuss how schools could better support all children and young people as they came back into education after six months of missed opportunity, learning and support.

Yet again, I was absolutely honoured to have attended the meeting and to have spoken to key senior figures from the DfE, the NHS, OFSTED and more, including the Director General for Social Care, Mobility and Disadvantage, Indra Morris; the Acting Permanent Secretary at DfE, Susan Acland-Hood; and the Chief Nurse at Public Health England, Viv Bennet, to name a few.

The diverse group of young people from NCB, Barnardo’s and Action for Children (some with SEND, some in or leaving care and some young carers) expressed their concerns themselves to these key figures, making it clear that young people’s voices deserve to be heard. They asked for a sense of security at schools/colleges and they called for an increase in Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services’ (CAMHS) funding to ensure that young people are able to access the support they may need, without a burden of long waiting lists and denial that their problems aren’t big enough for help and support.

It was, again, a real buzz to meet the different officials as it felt that they listened to us and took on what we had to say and that is yet another step in the right direction as youth representation continues to become much more accepted and considered in every corner of society.

Very excitingly, the DfE has agreed to let us know within three months what they have done to address the issues the young people raised so we look forward to then. I cannot wait to hear from them as we must ensure that young people are satisfied that their voices are being heard: it’s time that they are.

Update January 2020: Since Dmitrijs He also received a letter from the Permanent Secretary at the DfE, Susan Acland-Hood, thanking him for his contributions.

Living Assessments is a five–year research project on children’s health and social care funded by the Wellcome Trust in a partnership between NCB, University of Cambridge and University of Kent. The Living Assessments project helped enable these young people’s voices to be heard by policy makers.