At the request of the People and Communities Board, the Youth Forum was asked to review the Six principles for engaging people and communities. We, the NHS Youth Forum, particularly focused on whether there was an opportunity to strengthen its application to children and young people.
Children and young people make up 25% of the population, there are approximately 15 million of us, about 40% of primary care activity relates to us, and about 30% of emergency and urgent care activity relates to us.
We can’t deny that we were disappointed that we weren’t highlighted as a specific group in the six principles document. There is currently no one on the People and Communities Board with a specific remit for children: we are open to an invitation to join!
Sadly, this is not a unique position, children and young people are often forgotten in national strategies and documents. It was hard to find much in the Five Year Forward View or the NHS Business Plan, for example, that relates specifically to Children and Young People.
How the six principles apply to us
We reviewed each of the six principles and thought about their application to us.
Care and support is person centred: Personalised, coordinated and empowering.
Children and young people have differing person-centred needs; education is a big part of our lives and needs to be considered especially for children and young people with additional needs. Importantly, engaging with children and young people requires coming to us, we’re available via schools, youth clubs, youth councils etc,. We want information that is accessible and understandable: there’s been little focus to date on addressing our health literacy needs. Building peer support networks with other young people is really valued. It’s worth noting that we often engage more effectively with people of similar ages.
- Services are created in partnership with citizens and communities
Communities aren’t just ‘older people’. The earlier you engage children and young people as part of the community the more likely we are to play an active part. Young people support other young people, but can also be part of intergenerational programmes. Kissing it Better, for example, links Further Education students with older people’s homes and creates mutually supportive conversations.
- Focus is on equality and narrowing inequality
Children and young people often feel discriminated against by being left out of reports (such as this!). We have diverse views and, importantly, solutions for some of the challenges the NHS and care services are facing. Including children and young people is an important part of taking a life span approach to addressing inequalities and hearing our voices, which sadly are seldom heard.
- Carers are identified, supported and involved
There are thought to be approximately 700,000 young carers across the UK and so many are hidden. Young carers support a range of family members, including our brothers and sisters with disabilities/complex chronic conditions. Supporting the emotional and physical health and wellbeing of young carers requires better identification and assessment by all practitioners, yet often young carers are invisible. We’re not asked about our caring responsibilities and this needs to change.
- Voluntary, community and social enterprise sector and housing sector are involved as key partners and enablers
There are a range of voluntary organisations that support young people. Many of the NHS Youth Forum belong to St Johns, Cadets, Scouts, Guides and youth councils. Making connections with established groups can be helpful, as well as providing a project for these groups to focus on, resulting in benefits for all.
- Volunteering and social action are key enablers
Often volunteering opportunities aren’t that well-advertised for young people and we have to really seek them out. Making these opportunities more visible would really help. Remember we are your future workforce: provide us with opportunities to get involved and you’ll spark interest for our future careers. Just to note we’re always looking for work experience opportunities, so invite us in and we can lead on projects too.
Listening to our experiences
We noted that the Six principles for engaging people and communities also looked at Patient Surveys. The Care Quality Commission supported the Children and Young People’s Inpatient and Day Surgery Survey in 2015, which highlighted that 43% of 11-14 year olds were not as involved in their care as they would have wanted to be. We want to be involved in our care and in the design and delivery of services. The survey also reinforced that there has not been the focus on listening to children and young people’s experiences of care: where is the children’s GP survey, the children’s mental health survey, the children’s cancer survey?
We hope this has offered some food for thought, and reminded you that we have a right to be involved, to have our voices heard and to receive the best healthcare possible (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989).
To achieve this we have to be included. ‘Seen and not heard’, is not acceptable.
Authored collectively by the NHS Youth Forum