St Basils youth engagement team, ‘Youth Voice’, held a series of virtual consultations with young residents during the pandemic to identify the positives to keep after Covid, based on young people’s experience, following adaptations that we had to make to our services to keep them running, such as having to run workshops or support sessions online or over the phone. Whilst challenging the situation did however provide a unique opportunity to take stock of the adaptations and how some of these new ways of working could be utilised in the future to provide more flexible and tailored services to suit young people’s needs.
As well as our Hubs providing advice and assessment services, St Basils has over 40 different supported accommodation schemes in different locations providing various levels of support, depending on young people’s needs, from fully supported projects staffed 24/7 to semi and fully independent schemes. The consultations showed the differences that sometimes exist across services. Listening to our young people and following their recommendations, this has led to young people being given free rein to develop a set of 12 “youth standards” which will act as the gold standard that all St Basils services across the West Midlands must adhere to.
The 12 standards for all St Basils staff and services, developed by St Basils young people are:
- Communicate expectations, rights, responsibilities and co-develop house rules with young people.
- Be caring and build trusting relationships: Keep young people’s best interests at heart and be honest and genuine.
- Ensure environments are calm, safe, welcoming, and homely through-out.
- Embrace digital engagement and connectivity, ensuring equal opportunities and inclusivity for all.
- Offer choice for support timings and format. Work in partnership. Listen and adapt.
- Be friendly, approachable and fun but keep boundaries clear and consistent.
- All staff to have a strong understanding of mental health and wellbeing, to help build emotional support and resilience.
- Help young people succeed long term: Build confidence and self-esteem first.
- Help young people achieve their dreams. Establish skills, set goals, and lay out steps for the future so progression can be seen.
- Offer activities and inter-connection with other young people between schemes, to improve wellbeing.
- Offer real opportunities for young people to be heard at all levels and represented on St Basils Board.
- Actively encourage and embrace feedback to continually improve service delivery.
In line with our ‘Young People first’ priority, we have unofficially been working towards many of these standards previously. For example, we were one of the first charities of our kind to become a Psychologically Informed Environment in 2011 and we launched our Mental Skills Training programme in partnership with the University of Birmingham in 2013, aiming to help young people build mental resilience (Youth Standard 7). We launched our Employability service in 2018 which works alongside our Progression Coaches in each supported accommodation scheme (Youth Standards 8 and 9). We have been consulting regularly with young people via the activities of our youth engagement team since 2005 and have had young people join our Board as Directors since 2016 (Youth Standard 11).
However, these Youth Standards now formalise these aims, bringing them to the very heart of what St Basil is by definition, and what young people can expect as part of our offer to them, regardless of the service (including non-residential services), size, location, staffing levels or other factors.
These standards also include young people’s preferences around keeping some of the new ways of working developed during the pandemic, including an emphasis on ensuring young people have the digital technology they need to access online learning opportunities (Youth Standard 4) and flexibility around when and how one-to-one support sessions take place as some young people may prefer these to be online (Youth Standard 5).
All this means that young people coming to St Basils can expect to enjoy the same great standard of tailored support wherever they are placed. The Standards will be visible so young people can see what they are entitled to and should experience. Regular discussions in services with young people will enable all to consider what’s working, what isn’t and what action we can take to continually improve (standard 12).
The standards were formally approved by St Basils Board at their last meeting and staff consultations have been completed. Going forwards all services will be accountable for achieving the standards in partnership with young people who use their services.
The newly re-formed Youth Advisory Board which is made up of young people from across St Basils will provide oversight and monitor the implementation of standards, reporting into our main Board, and working in partnership with staff to ensure that they reflect the real experience of young people at St Basils.