Championing young people in Norfolk
Young people in Norfolk have been championed for the phenomenal way they are coping with the disruption caused by coronavirus and for the fantastic contribution many are making to shaping public services for youth during the pandemic and beyond.
There are 147,000 children and adolescents aged between 10 and 25 living in Norfolk. Since lockdown restrictions began in March, they have been coping with huge changes to their daily routines and activities and limited contact with friends and family.
It is estimated that between 500 and 750 young people 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 In Care Council (NiCC), for young people in care and leaving care, have all been meeting regularly online. Their work has included producing a monthly newsletter, giving interviews as part of working on media campaigns and reaching out to vulnerable people in local care homes with letters, cards and postcards.
Representatives from these youth organisations have also formed a brand new online consultation group, which is the first step to a more formal Young People’s Advisory Group The group will work with a planned new Norfolk and Waveney Children’s and Young People’s Alliance Board 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.
Making new friends across Norfolk and ensuring the voice of young people is heard is what 16-year-old Aimee enjoys most about being a member of Breckland Youth Advisory Board (YAB).
Aimee first joined two years ago after she helped with an anti-bullying group in her high school.
“Since then I’ve been to Dublin for the World Anti-Bullying Forum, where I got up and spoke. Adults often believe they know what young people think and it was great to actually stand up and speak and help to make our voice heard.”
Aimee has also been on a trip to Amsterdam with the YAB to find out about sexual health education for young people and is a young commissioner participating in interviewing adults for public and voluntary sector jobs affecting young people.
“I really like working with young people from other schools that I wouldn’t otherwise get to know. I’ve made great new friends from all over the county which has been brilliant. I’ve had so many opportunities, it’s given me confidence and I can now do things like public speaking that I couldn’t before.”
Her mum Tracey said: “Aimee is one of thousands of young people who just lost their identity overnight because of the lockdown. The YAB has given her a sense of purpose, it’s boosted her self-esteem and helped her interact with new young people.”
Aimee has missed sitting her GCSE exams this year because of Covid-19. She is planning to start A-Levels in geography, history, and government and politics at sixth form in September and is considering a career in government and politics.
Breckland YAB currently meets virtually three times a week with Monday and Wednesday for work and Fridays for social meetings.