Resource Link: Click Here

 The Rationale

As an organisation, creating safer, happier and more fulfilling environments for young people is our ultimate goal. Authentic youth voice is key to help us do better, more impactful work. Our services cover the borough of Stockton-on-Tees in the North East of England.

In 2022 we began a targeted, detached youth work project in Stockton Town Centre and the neighbouring Ropner ward.  We were engaging with increasing numbers of young people who weren’t being heard. The available youth voice opportunities just didn’t work for them.  Many of these young people have social care involvement, difficult relationships with the education system and were being criminally exploited. We saw that these important voices were being lost and needed to find a suitable outlet or approach.

In order to tackle this, we sought funding support from our local Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office, for a piece of creative youth voice work, using music and spoken word as an outlet. After a successful bid, we set about developing our established relationships with these young people in a way that allowed them to feel safe, supported and heard.

Although the creative piece was developed in a short space of time, the relationships that allowed young people to engage have taken years to develop. The film is testament to the hard work, empathy and persistence of our staff team and partners, and the trusting relationships that allow the young people to be vulnerable in our presence.


Our Call to Action

What you’re about to hear are the voices of children who have had services in and out of their lives for many, many years. That includes social services, police interventions/arrests, family workers, educational interventions and CAMHS. The hours, the level of experience & fiscal cost of the time spent for each child, should yield happier, safer outcomes for these children. But it hasn’t.

In our corner of the universe and in fact nationally, too many children’s lives are not safer and certainly not happier as a result of these interventions. This is not a criticism of specific professions, individuals or services. In fact, far from it. What we hear, see, what we know to be true and what all the respected research indicates, is that whole systems need to change. We absolutely know how to avoid a serious case review. We know what works to prevent children becoming youth justice statistics or worse life expectancy statistics.  And yet, we are still operating in conditions where a large amount of dumb luck is involved in avoiding these outcomes.

We need to care more about each person and look beyond what we see in front of us. We can only do this if we know our communities, our people and are more curious. To provide the best-informed support for each child, we need to meet that child and know about the streets they walk down, the parks they play in and the cultural circumstances that they exist within. These are not a one-dimensional situations. These are children’s lives and there is a deep need for social change.

In so many cases, children are growing up in community spaces that are unsafe, bleak and chaotic. The response of services is often knee-jerk, short-sighted, scandalising or minimising and without appreciation of context. We cannot continue to apply time-limited responses to societal issues.

The devil is in the detail. The decisions, the words we use, the time we spend, it all matters. Being present matters and being there for the long-haul matters.

You are in a position to influence change. Please hear, feel and understand the messages in this short film. These messages and voices demand your attention. We do not need constant innovation. We need to open our eyes and ears and create the space to listen, not to respond, but to understand.

Listen carefully to these 2 incredible young men, who are sharing the voices of themselves and their peers, in an open poem to professionals.