Our guest blogger this week is Amba from young people’s advisory group FLARE, on her recent experience being part of the Making Participation Work conference.
Just before Christmas I was part of the team delivering the Making Participation Work conference in Birmingham. It was an amazing experience as I met so many professionals who could help me in daily life.
As part of a young expert panel, I had the chance to show those professionals that young people have a right to make decisions and share their stories. I gave advice to the delegates on how to break down the barriers young disabled people face when they try to get into participation opportunities. It is important for young people to have these opportunities to share their experiences as we can show professionals that by including us when they are making decisions about our support, they give us better services that are actually what we need.
The decisions professionals make are often about young people. Our opinions count and are most important. Why should professionals put words into young people’s mouths?
I also helped to run a workshop on young people being fully included in their EHC plans, which is an issue that is really important to me. Adults don't know what children and young people want unless they include them in their EHC plans. They need to involve young people more to make them happier; they need a structure to avoid chaos and upset. Most people presume that young people don't have a voice but we are capable of having a voice.
Sometimes it feels as if no one listens to what we as young disabled people are trying to say, so I particularly enjoyed interviewing delegates to find out what they think about young people’s participation in planning and reviewing services. I was encouraged to hear their replies
“Because with strategic decision making we always think about it being about the local authority and about health but actually it’s all strategic planning for young people, so if there weren’t the young people there we wouldn’t have a need to do any of that work so to not have them involved seems silly.”
“I think that young people are very capable of having a voice so why should other people put words out there for them when their words are the most important thing we can hear.”
“Because the decisions are about them so they are the best people to ask. They are the experts.”
“If you involve young people in strategic decision making you make much, much better decision because what you are making decisions about is their lives not your own.”
Speaking with each of them it was really obvious that they knew the benefits of including us in the discussions and listening to us, but it so often doesn’t happen. I don’t understand why that is when the benefits are so obvious! One person said “The easy bit is the benefits of what you get. It makes it more accurate, more appropriate to local people and local needs. The difficulties are often about people’s perceptions of it. So we say it takes too much time, takes too much money, they [young people] won’t understand.”
But actually it is cheaper to talk to us and get it right than it is to ignore us and give us a service that doesn’t work.
As for us not understanding, if you use the right words then we can understand anything! Young people deserve to be included and, actually, it is their job to make sure we are.
It is so important that young disabled people are involved in helping the people who make decisions about our support. They need to understand what actually works for us and they need to listen to our experiences and learn from them. As a young disabled person myself, I still want to be as independent as I can, like other people my age, but I need support to do this. By having people listening to me and letting me have a say I will get more confident and with time I will hopefully achieve what I want and get a good job when I am old enough to.