Young Inspectors go from strength to strengthPublished Thursday, 25th August 2016
Inspections carried out by a team of young volunteers have started to show benefits and improvements at Rotherham Council.
Just over a year ago the Council set up its Young Inspectors Programme to place young people at the heart of inspecting services delivered to children, young people and their families.
And since then the young volunteers, aged between 13 and 19, have carried out 15 inspections – and now service improvements are on the cards as a result.
The Council is aiming to be a child-centred borough and this means putting the voice of the child at the centre of all it does. The Young Inspectors are crucial to this change.
The current Young Inspectors came together following a recruitment campaign through schools and youth centres and the Council, asking young people if they wanted to make a difference to Rotherham and be part of a group that could work together to make improvements.
Ashlea Harvey, Young Inspector Co-ordinator, said: "I really enjoy making a difference for children and young people, the first year has been challenging, but rewarding.
"I have undergone training and development to help me feel confident to give my own views while also making sure I capture the voice and experiences of other young people. There are a lot of young people who don't have a voice and we have been set up to make sure their views are heard. We need to be at the heart of children's services in order to ensure they are successful."
The Young Inspectors report back on how the Council is performing and what areas need to be improved and they feed this back right to the very top - direct to senior managers.
An important element of the inspections is finding out if young people feel actively listened to and if their views and opinions are acted upon to make improvements to their life or services.
Guided by Ofsted frameworks and locally developed service standards, the Young Inspectors choose which elements of a service they are going to inspect, using a range of methods including mystery shopping. They also provide opportunities for other young people to have their voices and experiences heard as the 'experts by experience' through a range of focus groups and questionnaires.
Inspections have included the Integrated Youth Support Service, two Care Leavers semi-independent living accommodation properties, a Children's Centre Complaints Service and Transport Service.
In the last year alone the Young Inspectors have found 1,054 positive points and 520 findings, issues or suggestions for services to take on board. These have been fed back to services directly by the Young Inspectors and action plans have been developed to make improvements.
The Young Inspectors plan to carry out re-inspection visits every six months to check improvements have been made and are sustainable..
Another highlight of the year was raising £351.40 through a bake sale and other fundraising activities. The funds were raised for local charity Safe@Last, and will be used to help it to continue to provide one to one support to young people at risk through running away in Rotherham.
Deputy Leader of Rotherham Council Cllr Gordon Watson, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People's Services said: "The Young Inspectors really make us very proud here in the Council. The scheme was set up to make sure we are meeting quality standards, and that the voices of children and young people, including the most vulnerable, are listened to and acted upon and Ashlea and her team have been making sure that is carried out, so thank you to her and her team.
"If we are to deliver the right services for young people then we need to listen to the people who are going to benefit from them the most. They are the people who hold the key to services being successful or not, and we all need to listen to what they are telling us and make any necessary changes."
Already, 16 volunteer Young Inspectors have been trained in inspection techniques over the last year, with seven currently undertaking inspections but more volunteers are needed to carry on the service.
The Young Inspectors are now appealing to anyone aged between 13 and 24 years old who would like to gain new skills and experiences for their CV and make new friends to come and join them. All inspections are carried out during school holiday times and Young Inspectors are rewarded with a fun activity and have an opportunity to complete a volunteer accreditation.