Jacob’s Blog: Starting my own youth voice group

My name is Jacob, I’ve been a member of the Council for Disabled Children’s FLARE group since 2020. I love trainspotting, trains are my passion!

I joined FLARE for a few reasons:

  • I want to be able to advocate for myself and other children and young people
  • I wanted to be able to see things from other people’s perspectives
  • I like designing and delivering training for a range of professionals and practitioners.

FLARE has been a good opportunity for me to develop my own skills around advocacy. I think the biggest skill of all that I have developed is my confidence. This year I have already co-produced a workshop at the annual Youth Voice Matters conference, you can find out more about my experience here and more about the event here, and delivering training in Manchester and Birmingham to professionals who want to learn more about working with children and young people.

I think delivering training can be a really nerve-wracking experience but now I have developed my confidence more this won’t be much of a problem. I owe my confidence to the FLARE group! This is because we often take part in smaller group discussions where we are all able to build our confidence by speaking with other young people.

I owe my confidence to the FLARE group! This is because we often take part in smaller group discussions where we are all able to build our confidence by speaking with other young people.


FLARE member

Since joining FLARE, I came up with the idea to start my own advocacy group. We are called the Autism Ambassadors, the main reason I did this is because there were no groups like this available in my local area. I saw an opportunity. I used my knowledge of youth voice and engagement to make a difference in my local area. I think my own negative experiences around my voice being heard made me want to change things for other children and young people.

I started the group a couple of years ago. My school had the title of an ‘Autism Ambassador’, I liked the idea of this even though the role didn’t have much responsibility at the time. I attended a meeting with the team responsible for young people’s participation in my local council and told them about Autism Ambassadors and that I think this should be rolled out across the borough by creating a group that would meet weekly. The local council were really excited, after some meetings and a year of planning, the Autism Ambassadors were launched in March 2021.

The goal of the Autism Ambassadors is to learn about people’s experiences and make change happen in our local area. For example, there is an issue with accessibility on public transport in my area so we wrote to all the organisations responsible for organising transport and made meetings with them. We are currently in the stages of making a guide to our local area, which will feature public transport links, places to go for support, as well as things to do. The findings from our accessibility work have been collated into a document and we were relatively pleased at what some organisations are doing to support disabled people in travelling with them. We even learned about an app that had been designed like a game with the objective of completing the journey. Our findings are going to be published later this year.

I’m currently the founder and director of the Autism and Ambassadors, but recently I’ve taken a step back to let other young people take more of a leadership role while I focus on my education. I’m going to get a qualification in health and social care and want to pursue a career in advocacy. This group means so much to me as we have made so much progress! I have been able to be involved in interview panels for jobs in the local council and I feel respected by the team responsible for participation and co-production there.

Throughout this journey I have learnt a lot, not only about Autism, but myself too. I have had the opportunity to make change and to develop my skills! Having struggled with self-confidence before it’s so rewarding at the end of co-delivering a workshop or training for someone to actually say that I’ve done a brilliant job.

I want other young people to feel confident enough to get involved in decision-making and help make the changes that they want to see. My advice would be don’t hold back! If you’re thinking of setting up your own group you can speak to your local council, or maybe a professional you work with, or a teacher. They might have connections or be able to give you some helpful advice. And remember, advocacy is a wonderful and powerful thing. You are paving the way for future generations to be able to share their voices too, and that is such a rewarding feeling.