Youth Council 2023
The Youth Council 2023 took place in Birmingham on Wednesday 31st May, bringing together a selection of our incredible children in care for a day of workshops and sharing, resulting in a presentation to the Five Rivers Board of Directors!
The day was run by our National Participation and Engagement Officer, Olivia Doherty, who delivered a session tailored around the thoughts and ideas the young people came to share. The morning session was run as a ‘youth-only’ space, with only three members of supporting staff present to join the workshop, allowing a space for the young people to speak freely and openly together, encouraging comradery amongst themselves.
Prior to the Youth Council day, there was a run-up of online sessions and surveys to a much wider audience of our young people in care, which helped influence the discussions at the meeting. This year we also had a young representative from residential care in the group, who brought a different viewpoint and insight to the topics raised.
Three key themes developed from the morning’s round table discussions and post-it note-sharing session were:
Perceptions of fostering and care from peers and teachers at school, racism and discrimination, and personal well-being.
“Most people in my class make fun of me deliberately because I’m in foster care and because I don’t live with my mum.”
Quote from a post-it note, written by a young person
The participants divided themselves into smaller groups around the room to dissect these topics. They looked at where the issues lay and what could be done to improve or resolve these issues. Each group had a chance to have time with all three subjects in turn and they developed their responses with genuine engagement and thought-provoking answers, based on their own personal care experiences.
“As ever a real inspiration to be around these young people with such powerful resilience but also a sobering realisation that much work needs to continue if we are to ease the burden of discrimination, stereotyping and systemic oppression that surrounds young people with care experience – in their schools their communities and the wider population”.
What stood out most was the respect the young people had for one another on the day. Allowing each other space to talk about an issue or experience with the attention it deserved, gave even the less confident members opportunity to speak up and feel heard.
“It takes more effort to be mean than to be nice”.
Quote from a young person whilst discussing discrimination.
After lunch together, the groups reformed to plan and rehearse a presentation on their topics, ready for the Board of Directors to arrive. There was a positive shared effort by all participants to stand up and speak or support those who spoke, which made the presentation feel as though it voiced the whole group in its delivery.
The Board seemed very impressed and took away a huge amount to discuss and deliver a plan of action! They stayed on with the young people for informal, personal conversations for the rest of the afternoon’s session.
The follow-up actions to the Youth Council Meeting will aim to deliver residential trips and new resources to further support the needs addressed by the young participants on the day. Creating new ways to reach our children in care to get their voices heard is why these sessions are such an important part of the Five Rivers Participation investments.
Find all the youth projects to date here as well as more information about what’s to come!