Raising the participation game at St Mary’s Kenmure

St Mary’s Kenmure used CYCJ’s recent webinar with Professor Laura Lundy as an opportunity to raise awareness of participation amongst the team (and also have some fun!). Elaine Hamilton and Ian Nisbet tell us more…

Within St Mary’s Kenmure (SMK), we as a Leadership team have been looking at ways in which we can progress and develop our service. One area in particular we are keen to grow is Participation.   How we can enrich and enhance the level of care our young people receive while also taking their thoughts, feelings, emotions, wants and needs into consideration.  Article 12 of the UNCRC highlights the importance of children and young people being able to express, freely their voice, in all matters that concern them.  Ensuring our young people are able to do this daily is of upmost importance.  In our bid to #KeepThePromise we are always looking for ways to create environments that support voice and also that ensure our teams are aware of their role in facilitating and encouraging our young people to be heard.

As the opportunity arose for the organisation to attend – and participate in – the presentation by Dr Laura Lundy on her own ‘Model of Participation’ Framework, in conjunction with CYCJ this March, we recognised this as an opportunity to connect members of the SMK team to new evidenced based theory and knowledge.  An opportunity for us to grow together after all of the challenges faced by Covid-19, this seemed like the perfect place to come together.

We decided to run our own Participation Event, with the aims of gathering, sharing and then implementing new systems and processes focused on bettering the lives of the young people we all care and provide for. We wanted to encourage people to think about what we do, why we do it and what we can get better at.

In order to encourage participation we got creative! As we all know food is the way to most people’s hearts (especially if you are Jim Shields!). So, alongside our catering manager we put together an American theme, offering up hot dogs, nachos, pick and mix and cupcakes topped with candy and popcorn, some of my own personal and many foodie favourites all in one place – what more could you ask for??

On a more serious note, the presentation showed what works well in other areas of social care and what can be done by others to develop and maximise their own services (ours included). The main aspect of the presentation that resonated with me, and something we all probably know but take for granted, is that young people will participate fully when they feel ‘safe’ and not before. A significant part of being made to feel safe is being listened to and the feeling of being ‘heard’.

With all of this in mind, we chose to have a little fun and perhaps incorporate a bit of competition into the day! We split the group in to two, setting them a challenge to build the biggest structure that could successfully hold an egg on top, out of newspaper, paper straws, toilet roll inserts and sellotape. I must also take this opportunity to apologise on behalf of my service as the materials used were not exactly what you would class as environmentally friendly! As I included myself in the activity, my competitive streak took over and it was fair to say there was some clashing of minds, about what shapes to use within the structure and how tall this should be. In this case, bigger would always be better! Despite the inter team competition, we blew the other team away and were crowned the not so environmentally friendly champions, with our creation reaching an impressive six foot in height! Working with colleagues we don’t usually have the pleasure of proved to be really entertaining and there were a lot of laughs and happy faces despite the obvious defeat.

With the day over, the group met as a collective to look at our organisation and allow for the opportunity to be critical about what we do well and what we can do to be better. We learned that many of the views of the staff team were an exact representation of what young people had said when asked for their views on what participation means to them and how this is carried out or shown within SMK.

The level of enthusiasm from those who attended was exceptional and SMK is now committed to using this event as a springboard for similar events in the future. I know that I am clear that everyone is motivated to identify what participation is in SMK, what it should look like and what it should capture.

We are committed to continuing with and encouraging the growth of participation within SMK.  Standards 22 & 23 of the Secure Care Pathways and Standards will stay at the forefront of our journey.  As will ensuring that all young people are fully involved in all decisions regarding their care and that they have access to advocacy and representation at all times.  The outcomes of this for our young people will help them prosper, while also making them feel ‘safe’ and ‘heard’ during their time at SMK and beyond.

With a clear recognition that ‘Voice is not enough’, we will continue to strive to shape an environment that continues to offer all four components – Space, Voice, Audience and Influence.

About our bloggers

Elaine Hamilton is Service Manager and Ian Nisbet is Unit Manager at St Mary’s Kenmure. Find out more.

You may also be interested in this blog from CYCJ on why listening to young people is not enough. For more about participation at CYCJ, click here. Check out ‘Just the Right Space’, our accessible website to help people of all ages better understand, navigate and participate in the justice system.

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