Views from an outreach worker: Supporting young people to engage in a two year participatory project

Posted: Sat Jun, 2014


Two young women aged 16 and 20 have been involved in the AYPH Be Healthy Project.

This was a two year project, and the organisation Isis was one of three specialist child sexual exploitation organisations based in the UK selected to be part of the project. The two young people attended workshops across the country in Derby and London, they also hosted workshops in Leeds. The young people involved met other young people from different projects to discuss health issues including sexual health, self-esteem, drugs and alcohol, body confidence, access to health services and barriers that young people face.
The workshops helped the young people learn about the issues and gave them a range of options that they could choose from to focus on for the final project.  The final project involved developing a resource booklet and animated film for young people and professionals about dealing with denial, low self esteem and issues around confidentiality.  The resource booklet gives professionals advice and tips for how to work with young people in a way that will engage them, and make them feel confident in accessing the support.
The young people achieved a Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE) award for their work. These young people have also presented at conferences nationally, as well as internationally, at the Euro Child Conference on young people's participation in Italy in November 2013.
The young people engaged extremely well and committed to the two full years!  I believe this is because they were included in all the planning for the workshops, and really felt passionate about the issues they were discussing. They really wanted to make a resource to help professionals, and encourage young people to access support.  The young people felt very included in the whole process, and had ownership over the project, which is why they continued to commit to the project for two years!
The challenges I faced as a worker were around ensuring that I had time to commit to the workshops, residential and trips away.  The project developed over the two years and what we initially agreed to in terms of staff time and commitment was increased as the project outcomes changed slightly and more time was needed to prepare the young people and support them to feel confident to deliver information to professionals.
Isis was able to be flexible and give me the time to support the young people. We all saw the value and the benefits of the project and how the project was giving our young people confidence, life skills and life experiences. The young people had never been out of Leeds, let alone out of the country, and this was such an amazing opportunity for them, and one they won't forget!!. It was a big commitment of my time, and as an organisation Isis understood the value of support needed for our young people to be involved in the project and activities.
The learning I have taken from this has been that if the young people feel invested in a project they will commit to it.  Isis needs to ensure that we are involved in projects like this as it is one of the only ways we are able to keep in touch with our service users who have been through the service and for whom we would have normally stopped working with as their risk of sexual exploitation reduced.  As a worker I found it extremely useful to meet other workers from across the country and talk to them about the work they do, what trends they are seeing and what challenges they face when working with child sexual exploitation.  I feel that I have made good contacts and working relationships with professionals that I would have not normally have met, creating better links nationally for Isis.