DUMFRIES and Galloway’s care experienced young people are to have a bigger say in the decisions that affect their lives thanks to a funding boost of £220,000.
The money will be used to support Dumfries and Galloway’s local ‘Champions Board’.
Champions Boards provide a platform for young people to talk directly to local authority staff, elected members and service providers to ensure that decisions which affect their lives are informed by their own experiences. Through Champions Boards, care experienced young people themselves can influence improvements in the services and support available to them.
Dumfries and Galloway has been developing its Champions Board for just over a year, creating local opportunities for care experienced young people and engaging the support of the local community. The funding will be used to support the engagement and empowerment of even more care experienced young people across the region, allowing them to set the agenda around their futures.
Champions Boards themselves are relatively new in Scotland, but are already proving to be extremely effective. They provide an opportunity for young people to articulate the challenges that being in care can bring and how these challenges can be faced and overcome with the right support.
Champions Boards aim to put young people in the driving seat, where their views, opinions and aspirations are central.
They build the capacity of young people to influence change themselves by showing confidence in their abilities and potential, giving them the platform to flourish and grow.
Funding has come from the Life Changes Trust, an independent charity established with a Big Lottery Fund endowment of £50 million to improve the lives of two key groups in Scotland: care experienced young people and people affected by dementia.
Dumfries and Galloway is one of 8 local authority areas receiving funding to support or establish Champions Boards. A total of £2 million has been awarded to Aberdeen, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, Dundee, Falkirk, Highland and Dumfries & Galloway.
Stephen Rogerson, a care experienced young person from Dumfries and Galloway said, “We’ve all been impressed by the level of commitment from partners within the Champions Board to make positive changes and not only listen to the young people, but act on what they say. This is a great opportunity for looked after young people and care leavers to really influence policy and decision-making”.
Heather Coady, Director of the Trust’s Care Experienced Young People Programme said, “Champions Boards are about empowering care experienced young people, so that their experience and expertise are taken into account by those with responsibility for their well-being. Allowing young people to have input into the development of services which directly affect them ensures that they are fit for purpose, relevant and most importantly effective and protective. Champions Boards show care experienced young people that they are supported, listened to and respected.”
Gavin Stevenson, chairman of the Dumfries and Galloway Champions’ Board, said, “Getting it Right for Every Child applies to every child and young person and no more so than to our looked after young people. They are ‘our’ children who have not been provided with the best start in life. The Champions Board has at its heart the clear aim to put the looked after young people at the heart of our leadership and design of services. It will help to ensure they receive the right services and right information at the right time through their voices being heard first, last and always on matters that affect them. Our geography and small communities makes strategic service planning and equity of access challenging and, as a result, our services can leave unmet needs. The development of our Regional Champions’ Network will ensure that local issues are highlighted and locally based solutions are delivered to meet the needs of our looked after young people.”
This story was taken from our sister publication The Galloway Gazette.