Circulation now reaches forty countries around the world and why advocating on behalf of children and young people remains crucial.

It is great to think that people have been reading about my Winston Churchill Fellowship report in forty countries around the world now and as well as increasing international circulation and visibility in this way there have also been developments closer to home that are really important in contributing to the likelihood that the recommendations contained within Living on a Railway Line will be acted upon.

This week I had the pleasure of spending an evening with a Youth Council. I specifically wanted to seek their views about two of my key recommendations – those surrounding a Child Abuse Awareness event and a Children’s Advocacy Centre.

The quality of the debate at the Youth Council was superb – with participants ranging from age 11 to 19. The well reasoned and knowledgeable arguments put forwards by the members of the Youth Council far exceeded the quality of some debates and discussions that I have seen involving people who have worked in the public sector for many decades.

Those people who think seeking the views of children and young people is an add-on are very much mistaken. People designing and managing services for children and families should be seeking the views of those people from the very outset – not once the decisions have been made and not trying to mould responses from children and young people to make it seem as if they have been listened to whilst the service does what it was always really going to do.

With that in mind, the discussion with the Youth Council members was great and I now have lots of ideas relating to the two recommendations I wanted to discuss with them. There were some really good questions posed and ideas surrounding the two recommendations and I thought it would be helpful to summarise these in the hope that people who might be interested in working on them, who are reading this, will be inspired to get in touch:

Child abuse awareness month

Generally received as a good idea. Things that children and young people at the Youth Council felt that it would be important to focus on:

  • What would you do if it was happening to you or a friend?
  • It should be all over the TV and radio, clearly demonstrating that we are recognising this as an issue and are doing something about it
  • A month might be too long and perhaps, at least in the first instance a week would be better
  • If it were to be a week then it should be organised to coincide with Prime Minister’s Questions (Wed to Wed) and be launched by the PM
  • It will be important to seek out and cooperate with key partners including CEOP/the police/schools/local authorities/charities
  • The name would need to be carefully chosen in conjunction with children and young people
  • A symbol (similarly to the symbol chosen to recognise childhood cancer week) would be important to draw attention to the event
  • Be careful how it is messaged – not an attack on agencies but a positive event to draw attention to key issues and make things better for the community, children and young people

Child Advocacy Centre

  • This is a good idea
  • Make sure there is a confidentiality policy in place and that Children and Young People understand what it means
  • Ensure it is well advertised and is accessible by local users – without any difficult transport issues
  • Make sure it is better than the services we already have
  • Ensure engagement with CAMHS, ChildLine and charities
  • Make sure that Victim Support are involved and consider using a current service so that the centre is “disguised” and people don’t know why you are there
  • Find a place where Children and Young People know they will be safe and know that they can get some support
  • Make sure that it coordinates with current Youth Centres and Youth Services
  • Consider these key issues:
    • Where would it be?
    • Who would it be for?
    • How would it be funded?
    • How would problems be tackled?
    • How would appropriate confidentiality be maintained?

I’m now on my way to Sydney for a short break then will be coming back to the UK via Singapore where I’ll be teaching back at the hospital where some of the primary research work which makes up the backbone of Living on a Railway Line was conducted. More news about that later!

If I get a chance to update this after my teaching I will do. If not I’ll sign off with the customary seasonal wishes for anyone who has read this far down!

Merry Christmas to you all and a very Happy and Successful 2015!