Inspired by our national discussions in A Better Way, I decided to try and set up a group of strategic thinkers across the public, voluntary and private sectors in Surrey who could make life better for younger people. We started with a series of questions, and so far we’ve identified what we believe will really make a difference in children’s lives. It’s about creating genuine connection and community.
Next steps: making it happen…
·Why are so many young people being impacted badly by society at this point in our history when we are more advanced, healthier and wealthier than ever?
·What are the deep rooted causes as to why children get left behind? Why do some people manage to overcome a difficult start to reach their full potential, living relatively happy, fulfilled lives? Why do other people sink under the weight of their problems, failing to fulfil their potential – living a life of poor coping strategies such as taking drugs and being violent or exploited?
How do we break the generational cycles of sexual exploitation, domestic violence, criminal exploitation, poor mental health, substance/alcohol abuse?
Chris Hickford (CEO of Eikon) and I were pondering these issues, so we invited a small, group of people with diverse experience and big brains to explore these issues with us. We call this our "unofficial think tank." Thank you ever so much to the kind, thoughtful, intelligent people involved:
Caroline Slocock – Better Way Network
Steve Wyler – Better Way Network
Jon Hetherington – More House School, Frensham
David Gumbrell - The Resilience Project
Jon Savell – Surrey Police
Trudy Mills - Children and Family Health Surrey
Dave Hill – Surrey County Council
Chris Hickford – The Eikon Charity
Cate Newnes-Smith – Surrey Youth Focus
Joe Crome – Community Foundation for Surrey
As a result, the group came up with a DRAFT set of principles for professionals and volunteers that we believe could make the difference to all children and young people and provide them the very best opportunity to succeed in life. We are just starting to tell the world about the principles...
SURREY UNOFFICIAL THINK TANK – OUR ‘PLAN ON A PAGE’
Being crazy about the kid
We all need to be ‘crazy about the kid’. Every professional needs to focus on human connection with a child, regardless of their background or circumstances, with patience and passion to achieve the very best for all children and young people.
Every child/young person needs a consistent relationship with at least one adult they trust.
Many young people feel lost and without direction, they don’t believe that they have anyone to turn to. Building trust and confidence takes time and a persistent and consistent approach. Often we hear stories of ever changing so-called ‘trusted adults’ in a child/young person’s life. How can we expect any form of ‘trust’ to be built when that person changes frequently and relationships have to start all over again. We need to enable professionals and volunteers working with children and young people to have the time and resources to provide stability and earn the child/young person’s trust.
Every child needs to be able to tell their story and learn to hope.
Many children experience trauma or loss. Others have a deeply unpleasant daily lived experience. Those children who have a clear story about what has happened to them are more likely to have develop healthy relationships going forward and hence to flourish. Children and young people need to know why they are where they are and to understand that they have choices and the potential to experience a happier life; connection with their peers can often help with this immeasurably. We all need to encourage young people to tell their story, to listen, believe and help the young person to make the changes that they need to make and to develop a sense of hope about their future.
Every child needs a sense of belonging and encouragement to shine.
Children and young people need to have a group of friends, a club, association or school, which they look forward to going to. Where they can be themselves. Where they feel people have an interest in their welfare and they can ‘shine’. We all need to find ways to build on the strengths of each child, not just those who fit into the traditional mainstream educational systems and exams that are prevalent in our society, and help them to shine.
We all need to believe in the child or young person and what they can achieve.
Believing in yourself because others have believed in you is the recipe for success. Professionals need to have faith in young people, to help them explore their individuality and learn the tools and belief that they can do what they set their minds to, with the power to change their world.
Cate Newnes-Smith is the CEO of Youth Focus in Surrey and a member of our founding Better Way group.