Youth Voice- A Conversation With A Youth Board Member

We spoke to Maddie, a member of our main board and a member of our Youth Advisory Board.

St Basils has facilitated national Youth Voice since 2007, originally National Youth Reference Group (NYRG) and then as national Youth Voice including since 2013, National Youth Homeless Parliament. This mirrors our internal Youth Voice structures, through our Youth Advisory Board and with young people as full members of our main Board.

 

The views below are from one of our current Youth Advisory Board Members who has also recently joined our main Board.

 

“It’s important to look at our work through the lens of a young person. I joined on the board last year as I thought young people’s voices could be heard better, and I wanted to help bridge the gap between the young people’s experiences and the actions of the directors- essentially opening their minds to centre young people when making important decisions about services. I feel really happy to be able to give them an insight into young peoples lives, so we can adapt our practices around the young people we support.

 

My passion for the role comes from the fact I didn’t have a great childhood- I experienced abuse, homelessness, the care system, all the while with a disability. I’ve always felt different or excluded- not as equal essentially. Not only that, but there is a stigma attached to homelessness- “if you live in a “hostel”, you’re a disgrace”. It’s not true at all, you’re not defined by your homelessness, you just need help and support whilst you’re in a transition stage. Living in supported accommodation means you’re working on bettering yourself and progressing.

 

Everyone has different experiences- in future, I want to visit our accommodation projects more and listen to those young people’s experiences to empower people to speak and to communicate those experiences with the wider community. I’ll always strive to push myself to do more for others and make positive change- one person’s voice can be really powerful. It helps to put yourself out there and show your vulnerability. St Basils has the courage to ask directly how they aren’t perfect, so they can actively work towards bettering their services.

 

We listen. We respond. And we act on those voices. We can only change so much without the help of governance- which is why we talk on the Youth Homelessness Parliament. We tell them the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s not tick-box or lip service- it’s real people, telling their real stories, to make real change. We’re creating opportunities for young people to speak up, and help us and similar organisations to act in young people’s best interests. It’s not “us vs them” – it’s very much collaborative. Further to this, I’m really proud of helping the team create the youth standards, which we work towards at every level of the charity.

 

Since being supported by St Basils, I’ve got more of a stable mindset. I have my own place with floating support and I’m proud to serve on the Board. I’ve improved so much in a short space of time, and feel like I can really be myself, whilst also pushing myself to do more- one day I’d love to be a Barrister! I’ve managed to create the person that I want to be with the support of St Basils and acknowledge that it’s OK to ask for help.

 

In the future, I’d like to raise awareness of the help available to people. There’s always someone who will help you, no matter the situation.”

 

Jean Templeton, Chief Executive says: “We cannot hope to provide effective services for young people without understanding their context and their experience. It is therefore absolutely critical to engage young people from our diverse communities in all aspects of our work. Embedded in our Principles to work by, ‘Young People First’, and our strategic priority,  ‘young people fully involved in setting standards, identifying priorities and monitoring services’, we must also make sure that commitment is embedded in our practice. The voice of our Youth Advisory Board and our Youth Board members helps us do that.”

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