Like all busy parents, I must admit that there are times when I’m perhaps not giving my precious offspring the benefit of my full attention. However, during the last four years the absolute importance of really listening to children and young people has become increasingly apparent to me. My own children are delighted with Mum’s improved aural capacity, but it’s other people’s children who have taught me to properly tune in.
Part of my work at Corra is with the Partnership Drugs Initiative (PDI). There’s so much bad news about drug and alcohol use in Scotland, but I feel very lucky indeed to work on a project which contributes to making a positive difference. PDI is a fund which aims to help reduce the impact of substance use on children and young people across the country. An integral part of the management of this fund is about listening to children and young people who have already had direct experience of the effects of substance use. What makes the PDI fund special is that we have two steering groups; one steering group who are adult professionals and another, the most important group, consisting of young people themselves. Young people who are growing up around drugs and alcohol. It makes simple good sense to listen carefully to their own experiences – after all, these are the people who are impacted by substance use and know exactly what life’s really like.
The more I have worked with this group of young people the more I have come to realise just how truly insightful they are. When it comes to assessing applications for the PDI fund their effervescent personalities and inspiring energy shines through as they share their thoughts and wisdom, nailing it every time.
I also have the pleasure of managing The Listening Fund Scotland which is a collaboration between Corra, the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF), the Gannochy Trust, William Grant Foundation and Comic Relief. Like it says on the tin, The Listening Fund supports youth work organisations in Scotland to get better at listening to children and young people and supporting them to challenge the power imbalance between services and the young people they serve. The Listening Fund is only six months in, but we expect some key learning on how adults can get better at listening, valuing and taking action on what children and young people have told us they want.
With the 30th birthday of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) approaching and #IWill week there couldn’t be better time to shout from the rooftops and celebrate our amazing young people. The days of being seen and not heard have been consigned to the past. Nowadays children and young people are, rightly, being given space to demonstrate their passion and leadership. The contribution they are making to our communities, movements and campaigns, across Scotland and on a global scale, simply can’t go unnoticed. As I’ve discovered for myself, there’s so much to learn from fully listening. So, let’s support young people to have their voice heard; to advocate for and lead change; let’s celebrate the #PowerOfYouth!