How many of us have been to meetings where we leave uninspired and wondering if there was any point to the last couple of hours? Most of us I suspect. Today was different. Today was an absolute joy where I came out feeling positive having learned a few things and wondering what more I could do to support such a great bunch of people.
The people in question were young people. The members of the Junior Safeguarding Boards who operate in the Mid and West Wales Safeguarding Board area in Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Powys. They had come together to hear from each other about their work, to discuss what they wanted to do next and to consider how they could work effectively with the adult board.
Some of the issues they were working on included safeguarding in education, bullying, healthy relationships, curriculum development, digital technology and keeping safe online to name but a few. They brought insight, clarity and positive solutions to the table to discuss and agree. They were dynamic and enthused and explored difficult and sensitive issues with maturity.
We had quite a discussion about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the role of the National Independent Safeguarding Board and how voice and being a champion for those who could not or would not speak up was quite some responsibility.
Somehow we got on to building resilience amongst children and young people. “It’s not enough to listen to someone who is hurting and do nothing. Voice has to be about listening and doing something to put things right” said one contributor. Another agreed. “That’s right. You know when adults talk about building resilience? That’s not about listening and hoping that child can cope on their own. It’s about responding and doing something so that child feels better afterwards. What’s the point otherwise?”
The group noted countless examples where adults in professional role listen but don’t do anything. Where no response is made or worse where a promise is made and nothing then happens. “I’ll tell you what happens then. The young person builds resilience alright by not sharing their thoughts, not speaking out about the abuse they are suffering because they have learned its pointless to speak out”.
These young people are brilliant and their work programmes as Junior Safeguarding Boards are designed to put their priorities into action. To be the champion for young people’s issues, to help children and young people with the problems and issues they share, to work with the Adult Safeguarding Board and to improve the life chances of children and young people in their area.
This is the cutting edge of safeguarding practice. These young people are equal partners in our safeguarding response and the challenge for the adult regional safeguarding boards and indeed the national board is to hear their challenge and respond appropriately.
Vice Chair, National Independent Safeguarding Board