BACKGROUND: I have been working on young people’s participation for over 15 years in a range of settings. Since 2008 I have worked in the field of young people’s health with a focus on using creativity to support and include the voices of the most marginalised young people.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO WORK WITH THE ASSOCIATION FOR YOUNG PEOPLE’S HEALTH?
I joined the Association for Young People’s Health in 2011 to lead on the Be Healthy project. I came from a sexual health organisation and had a strong interest in the intersections of young people’s health, gender and sexual violence, which the Be Healthy project perfectly combined. The holistic view of young people’s health also attracted me to working with AYPH because it is only through acknowledging the impact of structural inequalities on young people’s lives that we can support them to achieve their best possible physical and mental health.
WHAT ARE THE KEY ISSUES YOUR ORGANISATION IS TACKLING?
We work to improve young people’s health by focusing on five key areas.
- Increasing young people’s participation in health policy, practice and research.
- Increasing access to evidence about young people’s health
- Improving practice in young people’s health
- Supporting and developing new ways of meeting young people’s health and wellbeing needs
- Informing regional and national policy and strategy
WHAT ACHIEVEMENTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
AYPH is proud of the Be Healthy project, run in partnership with the International Centre at the University of Bedfordshire and three specialist Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) services. We trained 10 young people as Health Advocates and supported them to develop resources that have since been used by the NHS and local authorities to address CSE. Two of the participants went on to create a peer support website. We also developed a professional training package to share how the participatory model we developed can be applied to safely support all marginalised groups of young people to explore health in group settings.
WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS FOR THE COMING YEAR?
A large focus of our work in the coming year will be on setting up this new project funded by the Samworth Foundation. To start we will recruit two Youth Advisors and four specialist services to partner with. As an organisation we will continue to push young people’s health to the top of the agenda by promoting evidence, best practice and young people’s participation.
GIVEN THE SAMWORTH FOUNDATION’S FOCUS ON SEXUAL EXPLOITATION, WHAT, IN YOUR VIEW, ARE THE KEY CHALLENGES OR OPPORTUNITIES FACING YOUNG PEOPLE ACROSS THE UK?
We believe that the #metoo movement has created an opportunity to conceptualise and address sexual violence with young people in ways that were much more difficult during the Be Healthy project. We are optimistic that the 30th anniversary of the UNCRC will be an ideal opportunity to revisit all of the rights that the UK ratified for young people and ensure they are upheld. We hope that both of these opportunities will provide new ways of addressing the continued challenge to increase young people’s participation and access to group work in the field of sexual violence.