I had the honour of being invited to attend this inquiry as an observer, to listen to every organisation and panellist of the day and form my own opinions about the incredibly important topics that had been discussed.
Mental Health and Wellbeing:
Rethink had a heavy focus on how it is important in the current climate to change the way in which mental illness is perceived. Rethink outlined how they provide a number of services for young people and the community. They offer people with mental illnesses support to regain the confidence needed to reintroduce themselves into the workforce.
The representative from the Anna Freud centre focused on articles 18, 23 and 27. Article 23 was the first to be acknowledged and is as follows:
Recognising that a mentally/physically disabled child should enjoy a full, decent life ensuring their dignity and facilitating the child’s active role in the community.
They detailed how new projects had been launched such as ‘On My Mind,’ which allow young people to make decisions about their own wellbeing, rather than see these decisions being made for them.
Thrive London spoke about six specific aspirational areas. Some of these aspirations were to create a city free of mental health stigma, a city that would maximise the potential of the youth and a city with a suicide rate of zero. In particular, they had a campaign with a prevention focus. Their research project — ‘Right to Thrive’ — focuses on understanding how discrimination affects a person’s mental health and wellbeing.
Children in Care and Care Leavers:
The Children’s Society delivers support to children from care, foster and adoption. One of their focuses is that those who have left care also have voices/opinions that need to be heard. They discussed promoting positive opportunities for children of all abilities to become involved in all areas of their work.
The Big House was represented by a woman who was one of the more powerful speakers of the day. She discussed the work they did in support of care leavers after they had given up on themselves to help them gain confidence and vital skills. With a 12-week theatre project, care leavers can produce a theatre piece on a topic of their choice. Interesting statistics were provided about how their projects had a wider impact: 90 per cent of people after the project felt more optimistic, whilst 75 per cent moving into education/training after being on the verge of social exclusion. Personally, I thought these projects were not only innovative but also had high success rates. They support young people to be able to articulate and express themselves in order to promote change.
QMUL focused on how 6 per cent of care leavers went into universities, feeling as though they were not smart enough to go into further education. Care leavers are also statistically shown to be more likely to drop out of education, demonstrating an underlying social injustice. Through their own research, they found that structures are off-putting, as universities are inflexible in their understanding of circumstances. A poignant point, particularly Marxist in nature was raised; that power reproduces and circulates social inequality.
Youth Justice System:
The Youth Violence Commission had a focus on articles 12 and 13, which emphasise the freedom of speech for the youth and their ability to be able to express their own views. They carried out a survey of how crime affected young people and found that young people are required to be involved in creating a service that would work best. They also discussed how stop and searches were a main problem, with the youth having little positive contact with the police.
The Waltham Forest Youth Offending Teams outlined how they had spoken to young people who had formerly offended, naming them VIP — Voices in Partnership. These young people reported that there was little value in community service and litter picking, as this was more humiliating rather than rehabilitating. They were connected with employers to help them.
Young Refugees and Migrants:
CORAM carried out research in which they asked young people about their experiences. They found migrants became nocturnal after travelling through Europe and facing semi-starvation. There was a serious issue with how trauma was ongoing, as these refugees believed coming to the UK would be a haven, when in reality it is the opposite. The process of being moved exacerbated trauma, never allowing them to overcome it. A point raised by the NHS is that to overcome trauma one must be settled and regulated. This is something that is difficult to overcome for refugees and migrants.
Let Us Learn is a youth-led campaign group. They made it clear that there was no prior organisation that supported and helped young people who are migrants. A point made was that the migrants were being helped to face the future better to avoid becoming another statistic.
Housing and Homelessness:
Juvenis outlined how young people become experts through experience. Their developing project is where they work with young girls in hostels. They provided a creative way to help them express themselves. In particular, looking at youth loneliness it was found that 10 per cent of 16-21-year-olds develop depression.
New Horizon reported on how they work with over 2000 young people a year. It was stressed how there are different visible aspects of homelessness within the city, but notably that the youth experience homelessness differently. They reported that 4800 people sleep rough, with 604 of these being young people. The young represent a hidden aspect of homelessness, as they do not wish to be associated with homeless people outside stations, for example. There should be a safety net in place, but this is effectively absent and there are no means for the youth to find accessible help.
Overall, the overarching point made by all organisations throughout the day was that the youth are simply in trouble, rather than being the source of trouble and this is what needs to be overcome in order to create change. Everyone agreed that more resources and services were needed and ought to be offered in order to provide a solution.