My Say Matters recent achievements and activity
Violence against women and girls conference November 2023
Members of Barnet’s Youth Assembly speak at our VAWG Conference - November 2023
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a serious issue and the conference brought together those who are working together to end VAWG including social workers, domestic violence services and Middlesex University.
Lauren and Rebecca from Youth Assembly were delighted to be asked to attend to present a motion they recently proposed and passed at Barnet Youth Assembly. The motion related to improving the role good quality PHSE can play in fostering healthy relationships among young people. Lauren and Rebecca also emphasised the importance of good sex education as a tool that young people can use to protect themselves and their peers from facing toxic and manipulative partners.
During their speech, they presented impressive data they have collected highlighting young people’s experiences with sex education in Barnet. Through a survey that received over 300 responses, they found that many felt that sex education in Barnet was of a low quality and was not useful or applicable to their lives. To improve this, their research highlighted how anonymous boxes in classrooms where students can express issues and concerns could be a possible solution.
Their speech was well received by all attendees including Councillor Nagus Narenthira (The Mayor of Barnet), Chris Munday (Executive Director of Children and Family Services), and other professionals involved in policing and crime.
Lauren and Rebecca’s work is one of the many examples of how young people have used their voices to shape Barnet for the better. They will be going on to meet staff who support Barnet’s PHSE resources and curriculum to share their views and look at ways to include the feedback of young people in the future.
Young People Open Full Council for Black History Month October 2023
On 17 October two of Barnet’s young people were invited by the Mayor to speak at Barnet’s Full Council Meeting. In line with this year’s Black History Month theme Saluting Our Sisters David Lima-Oredein, year 8, and Akua Nkansah, year 12, spoke of inspiring Black women.
David highlighted the bravery shown by Rosa Parks and how for him she serves as a reminder that everyone regardless of their background has the right to be free. He also spoke of how he would like discrimination of all kinds, including sexism, religious intolerance, and homophobia, to be eradicated and called out in Barnet.
Akua chose to speak about Harriet Tubman and how her journey from slavery to active freedom fighter was an inspiration to her. She also commented on how inspiration extends beyond the pages of history and can be seen in our daily lives.
She then went on to tell a personal story about her mum. Her mum came to the UK in 2003 and raised 4 children while balancing a full-time job. She ultimately progressed to achieve a master’s degree in social work. Her story is a reminder that each of us can create transformative change within our local community regardless of our origin. She ended her speech discussing the need for the government to provide mentoring schemes for young Black children in Barnet that should offer guidance, educational support, and a sense of belonging.
Both David and Akua’s moving speeches were well received by councillors and are a reminder of the impact that young people can have.
As Barnet continues to involve more young people in the democratic process, we hope to see many more using their voice to make a difference.
Watch David and Akua’s speeches: Agenda for Council on Tuesday 17th October, 2023, 7.00 pm (moderngov.co.uk) (watch from 19:00).
Youth Empowerment Session – October 2023
In October the My Say Matters team held an empowerment session for young people to enable them to come into the council main office, meet senior leaders and consider a career with the council in the future. This was set up in response to Barnet’s Youth Assembly passing a motion on International Women’s Day in March 2023 that the council should provide confidence-building sessions for young women and girls in Barnet.
The session was facilitated by Natasha Garcia who is an empowerment coach who works in our Organisational Change service. During the session, the young people joined our senior leaders (including some of the women who were nominated for the Black History Month Sheroes Award) in activities to build their confidence and realise their full potential.
Firstly, the young people were asked to look at some iconic women such as Beyonce Oprah and Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women). All the girls were told that at some point in their careers, these women had experienced failure.
They realised that failure was a normal part of life and that it does not prevent someone from pursuing their goals.
The aim of this activity was to help young people realise that is important to develop their ability to be resilient as it is not just talent alone that makes a person successful.
The young people were then given booklets with questions to help them explore aspects of their lives that they are currently finding challenging and begin to focus on what they would like their future to look like.
They were then given the opportunity to discuss these with a senior member of Barnet Council including Dr Tamara Ðuretić (Director of Public Health), Dawn Wakeling (Executive director Communities, Adults and Health), Lakeisha Hicks (Assistant head of Service Children Services) and Tamara Wright (Internal Communications and engagement lead) who guided them to find possible solutions. The senior leaders also discussed their journey to working for the Council and steps they could also take to work in a leadership position in the future.
The session was a great success and those attending left not only feeling more confident in their ability to pursue their future goals but also knowing that they could consider a role in the council in the future as it is a place where women can thrive and make a difference.
#BOP and Family Services host our annual Summer Celebration for Children in Care – July 2023
This year’s event was a resounding success, thanks in part to a fortuitous spell of sunshine! A total of 71 children in care, along with their families and carers, attended the event, which offered a variety of activities for all ages and a selection of international cuisine.
The themes of Belonging and Inclusion were central to this year’s event. Special consideration was given to arranging activities suitable for neurodiverse or disabled children. Additionally, we ensured that our imagery on flags and stalls fostered an atmosphere of inclusivity and welcome.
As is tradition, we held our awards ceremony hosted by #BOP members and Barnet’s Mayor. Each young attendee received a certificate acknowledging their achievements. The day was filled with fun on inflatables, at our silent disco, and in chill-out zones. Attendees enjoyed jerk chicken, jollof rice, and treats from the ice cream van. The event concluded with group dancing, singing, and the cutting of our celebration cake. Our Director of Children’s Services, Chris Munday, is pictured above.
Barnet Young People Launch the Children and Young Peoples Plan and Speak at Full Council - July 2023
Barnet Council’s new four-year strategy aimed at improving the lives of children and young people in the borough was launched at the Full Council Meeting at Hendon Town Hall on 11 July 2023.
The event was attended by young people from the Barnet My Say Matters project, who opened the full council meeting and helped announce the Children and Young People Plan. The plan was developed together with young people, carers, and key agencies, and is at the heart of the council’s commitment to making it the most family-friendly borough in London.
Watch this video to find out more here https://youtu.be/EweWUG5vJY0 and hear from our young people individually here:
#BOP Address Council Members at Corporate Parenting Advisory Panel – Feb 2023
Members of #BOP spearheaded a session at the commencement of the Corporate Parenting Advisory Panel (CPAP) meeting. The meeting, held at Hendon Town Hall, was attended by elected members, Barnet Family Services’ senior leadership team, and partner agencies. The session began on a light note with a chocolate-themed ice breaker that facilitated introductions and set the stage for more serious discussions.
#BOP members elaborated on the concept of a child in care council, its functioning, and their expectations from the adults who support them. They demonstrated their tenacity, resilience, and ability to articulate their views confidently while providing feedback about the services they use. They highlighted several areas for improvement:
- Being consulted properly about the dates and times of meetings and arrangements to see family
- keeping therapy separate from school life and when there are meetings in school not being asked to collect your social worker in front of friends
- ensuring schools have training about the needs of disabled young people in care or those with ADHD/dyslexia, more tutoring and that this is quicker to organise
- making sure information is only shared when really necessary, their privacy is respected and young people don’t feel “monitored”
- calling our home a “placement” and for social workers to be more consistent, and pay more attention to what we are saying.
#BOP Beat Barnet Council Staff 10 – 0 in Family Friendly Football Game
Barnet’s Child in Care Council, #BOP, recently established their own football team. In June 2023, they played a friendly match against council staff. The game was attended by spectators including Chris Munday, our Director of Children Services, and members of the leadership and management team.
The young people participated in three training sessions led by a professional coach. The culmination of their training was an exhibition match against the staff. Each participant received a certificate from Chris Munday to acknowledge their achievement, along with reward vouchers.
Despite a valiant effort, the staff team was unable to score a goal. They faced a formidable opponent in the form of a younger, more talented side! The event served as a wonderful opportunity for young people and staff to connect through sport.
We look forward to seeing the #BOP team participate in future events. There are even discussions about a potential match with a similar team from a neighboring borough.
My Say Matters Collective are Recognised for Outstanding Service to the Community as Young Citizens of Barnet
On 25 April 2023 the My Say Matter’s Collective were honoured to receive a certificate of recognition at the Mayors Civic Awards for their work during the first year of the My Say Matters Strategy. More information on Civic Awards Council
Samuel Board part of the MSM Collective had the following to say….
“Those of us involved with My Say Matters did it because we believed it was the right thing to do. There is no doubt about the fact that young people have a much lesser say in the democratic process than our adult counterparts, yet our views are just as important.
Decisions that often affect us the most, with our long futures still ahead of us. Young people are not able to vote, not able to stand for election, and we often find our views are not respected too. We set out to change that. We were given the opportunity to use our voices to share how we would like to be listened to, how to show that we are being listened to, and the result of that is the My Say Matters Strategy. One that sets out best practise for giving young people their right to a say. One produced by young people, for young people. It is the young people currently stood before you that took that opportunity with bright ideas, confidence, and commitment.
I can say for myself that it has been a pleasure working with so many different people from a variety of so many different backgrounds. It has been interesting hearing so many different viewpoints on life, and I’ve learnt so much about the world around me, whilst teaching so much too. Those of us involved with My Say Matters would like to thank everybody at Barnet Council who has adopted the strategy with open arms and made it the success it is.
We would specifically like to thank the staff who worked with us to produce the strategy and put on its related events, whilst still allowing us to work freely and independently. We would finally like to thank Madam Mayor for her keen support of the My Say Matters strategy, and the open mind she has approached the strategy with, listening to us and inviting us to many opportunities to tell her and her colleagues more. We are incredibly grateful to have been nominated for this award and are delighted to have been chosen for it. “
Youth Assembly Debate – International Women’s Day 8 March 2023
Barnet Youth Assembly celebrated International Women’s Day at Hendon Town Hall at an event co-chaired by young people and the Mayor of Barnet.
This event was designed to give young people the chance to directly influence council policy via access to Council Members and senior leaders in the council.
The programme started with presentations from young women from grass roots community group BeLifted.
This was followed by the proposing and debating of 3 motions which were all passed on the night:
- I call the council work alongside successful organisation to get young people especially girls work experience ( proposed by Kelsey).
- I encourage the council to issue recommended reading lists for local primary schools that include a number of books with female protagonists that matches the number with male protagonists ( proposed by Lauren).
- I would like to call the council to provide confidence building groups for young women in school and women of all ages within the community ( proposed by Laila).
Council Members and senior officers of the council including the Director of Children’s Services listened and responded to the debate.
Work has already started on taking up the ideas raised by young people. Barnet Libraries have produced a reading list with female protagonists to appeal to a range of ages and we will be sending this out to schools. Watch this space for more news…..
Young People address Barnet Full Council Meeting to celebrate International Women’s Day Feb 2023
Barnet’s young people continue to be involved in local democracy as part of the Mayor’s project to have youth speakers opening Full Council Meetings.
On 28 Feb 2023 pupils from Hasmonean High School for Girls, delivered their speech to elected members in the council chamber at Hendon Town Hall. They shared details of women that inspire them and their hopes for the future. They were also invited to view the Mayor’s parlour and hear about the history of Barnet and links to other international towns.
The Young People’s Assembly on Climate Change
The Young People’s Assembly on Climate Change has recruited 20 young people between the ages of 11-17 years old to answer the question:
Barnet has declared a climate emergency. What more can we do together to make Barnet more sustainable, now and in the future?
From March 2023 until May 2023, the young participants will attend 3 main sessions where they will learn more about climate change and sustainability. They will explore topics such as the natural environment and biodiversity, transport, sustainable consumption, and green skills.
This assembly takes place in parallel with the main Citizen’s Assembly for 18-year-olds +, which would ask the same question. Together, participants will work to produce recommendations for a more sustainable Barnet, which will be published in a report at the end of the process.
A1000 Widening Consultation
On Monday 9 January 2023, Barnet Council held a workshop with 11 young people on the future of the experimental A1000 Cycle lane schemeExternal link. The scheme has seen the creation of 3.2km of cycle lanes in the Finchley/Golders Green areas of Barnet borough, providing a safe and direct green corridor for commuters and leisure cyclists alike.
The young participants shared their unique views and experiences of cycling in the borough. Some of them talked specifically about how they use part of the A1000 road in terms of being a passenger on a bus, in a car, walking as pedestrian on the side pavements and indeed as a cyclist.
The feedback gathered from young people forms part of a wider A1000 consultation and will inform the future of the cycle lane.
Family Services’ Young Commissioners programme is an opportunity for young people between the ages of 11 to 18 who live in or attend school in Barnet to work alongside our commissioners to develop new skills, meet new young people and gain AQA unit awards.
We are currently onboarding 2 young commissioners, with the aim to kick start the programme by the end of March 2023. The programme lasts for 9 months, after which they’ll graduate the programme with three AQA unit awards, as well as any references they may need for college, university, and school applications.
Whilst young commissioners are on the programme, they’ll not only be gaining new skill sets, but they’ll also have the opportunity to provide their own input in the development and commissioning of services for their communities.
Season's Greetings card design for partners
2022 has come to an end and was another year of remarkable contribution from Barnet’s young people. Their efforts and involvement with important matters, decision making, and events were inspirational and so valuable to us all. This is evident in the fantastic achievements and activities below.
We finished the year wanting to create a season’s greetings card from family services for our staff and partners as well as members of our community, but we felt this would be most meaningful if we could include the input from our young people. As such, we used the excellent design of D, age 16, for our season’s greetings card.
The card was loved by all.
We wish you all well for 2023 and we look forward to another exciting year of collaboration with Barnet’s brilliant young people.
Barnet’s Child in Care Council open our 2022 Family Services Staff Conference
On 9 November, BOP (short for Barnet on Point) our Children in Care Council opened Barnet’s Family Services Staff Conference with a speech sharing the importance of #youthvoice and what it means to them to have a safe space to express their individuality. It means the world to them to have the appropriate support from their carers, social workers, and all other professionals working with children and young people.
“BOP is a support group for us, a safe space where we have a voice, where we can learn that we have opportunities, where you can express your individuality without feeling judged because the young people in the group have the same lived experiences.
It means a lot to us to have discussions with young people from different backgrounds who can relate – we are family. BOP helps you have a voice, it makes us understand the importance of having a voice and we feel that we are listened to. At BOP you can always find someone to confide in. Even if you are shy and going through a lot, someone else will say it for you and it makes it easier.” BOP Members 2022
BOP also led an exercise for the whole staff group ( 400 people!) where they were asked to bake a recipe for their perfect person who works with children. Staff did some really creative recipes and BOP shared what they wanted the worker to be like. This was so inspiring that one staff member sang her reply!