Public Health Wales
Listening and Learning from Children and Young People
Contact: Sian Bolton – firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Health Wales is the national public health agency in Wales and exists to protect and improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities for people in Wales. We are part of the NHS and report to the Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services. With a strong Board, 1,700 staff and a budget of £106 million, the organisation employs the majority of the specialist public health resource in Wales. We provide advice, expertise and specialist services to Welsh Government (working across departments), the seven health boards, two NHS Trusts, 22 local authorities, other agencies and to the population of Wales. We provide the public health knowledge, scientific expertise and intelligence to lead transformational change and to drive a focus on ensuring that we deliver tangible improvements in health and wellbeing outcomes and reduce health inequalities in Wales. Health and local government are among the devolved areas in Wales and therefore, working nationally and locally, Public Health Wales has access to both policy levers and local delivery systems by working closely with our partners. Each of the seven health boards in Wales employs a Director of Public Health who is supported by the critical mass of expertise employed by Public Health Wales at the local and community level and who, under an honorary contract, manages locally based Public Health Wales staff. Our vision is for a healthier, happier and fairer Wales.
It was recognised by Public Health Wales that we did little to engage with children and young people; we needed to involve them in the work we do and gain their views on what we should be doing to impact on their future. This is particularly pertinent in Wales with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 which requires public sector bodies to think about the long-term impact of their decisions and how they work with people and communities sustainably. We worked with an organisation ‘Children in Wales’ to identify a group of young people from across Wales to come together and write a children and young person’s Annual Quality Statement. This is an annual document for the public setting out the work we do, what has gone well and what improvements are required. The children and young people enjoyed the workshop so much that they requested a Children and Young Person’s Summit was held to consider public health issues across Wales. The Summit was planned, Chaired and facilitated by young people and attracted over 70 children and young people ranging from 8 to 26 years from across Wales. The feedback was extremely positive with the children and young people gaining agreement from Public Health Wales that the event would become an annual occurrence.
For the past four years we have been required by Welsh Government to produce an Annual Quality Statement and have involved members of the public in making this document increasingly accessible. However, despite the document being written for the public, it is not written for children and young people and as it is projected that the number of children aged under 16 will increase to 568,000 by 2026 (Office of National Statistics, 2016) it was important for us as an organisation to think about how we could engage with children and young people, gain their views on public health issues in addition to making information accessible for them.
‘Children in Wales’ already have established networks which enabled us to access children and young people from across Wales. An invitation went out to identify up to 20 individuals to be involved in a residential which took place over Friday and Saturday. The residential particular focused on writing an Annual Quality Statement for children and young people. Travel expenses and subsistence were funded; we also ensured evening activities were in place along with all safeguarding requirements. The 2-day programme involved a number of presentations from Public Health Wales informing the group about the organisation and the work we do. A workshop was also undertaken by our communication department to provide training for the children and young people on how to write for a publication. We also requested the design company commissioned attend and spend the day with the young people so that they could help design the entire document.
- Children and young people felt that they were listened to
- They felt empowered to plan and facilitate a Young Person’s Summit that included inviting the Public Health, The Children’s Commission for Wales, The Well-being of Future Generations Commissioner and the Public Health Wales Chief Executive all of whom attended and supported the Young Persons Summit.
- Contributed to Public Health Wales’ 10-year vision 2018-2028Success Measures:
- First ever Children and Young Persons Annual Quality Statement produced and published
- Children and Young Persons planning group established and agenda planned by the children and young people
- Children and Young Persons Summit held with attendees from across Wales
- A mechanism agreed to continue engagement with the children and young people.
- Writing, editing and production of a Childrens and Young Persons Annual Quality Statement. http://www. wales. n’s. up/sitesplus/documents/888/PHW%20Youth%20AQS%20Supp%20English%200517. pdf
- Youth Summit held which over 70 children and young people ranging from 8 to 26 years attended from across Wales.
- The Youth Summit, planned, delivered, Chaired and evaluated by young people.
- Agreement by Public Health Wales that the Youth Summit will become an annual event for children and young people to interact and contribute to the public health agenda
- Creation of an all Wales Young Persons Advisory Group which meets at least 3 times a year and reports directly to the Executive Team.
- Control of organisational social media handed over to Children and Young people during the Youth Summit event.
Other organisations could consider how children and young people can be engaged in making key organisational documents more relevant to this audience in addition to the value of involving them in discussing and highlighting public health concerns. The Children and Young Person’s Annual Quality Statement document has been shared with Welsh Government and will be presented to an All Wales NHS Group in December 2018 to share the key achievements and benefits of this approach. The feedback received from both the development of the Annual Quality Statement and the Youth Summit speaks for itself in relation to the relevance for all NHS organisations and wider: Annual Quality Statement
“It was nice that Public Health Wales considered young people by deciding to develop a young people’s Annual Quality Statement and also good that they involved young people in the process of making it” Joshua
“Young people are the future of this country. The statement is key to future developments in the field of health. The more input from young people, the better” Toby
“The event has embodied recent changes in youth engagement; we are increasingly involved in society, health being a primary area. Through these events young people’s opinions are finding traction. The more young people are given opportunities to effect change the more progressive and inclusive services become and policies become. Long may it continue, we are the future so we take part in shaping it” Tom Comments from the Public Health Youth Summit
“Just a massive thank you to all who attended or was involved in the planning of the event it was very successful!” Sam
“Can’t believe Public Health Wales has actually supported us to take control” Anonymous
“Fab! An event for young people, planned by young people. Can’t wait for next year” Sannan
“This is so cool!, can’t believe the NHS is involved” Anonymous
The main factor that makes this initiative stand out is enabling children and young people to take control of the planning, delivery and outcome of a document and event that will help influence their future health and wellbeing. The key elements that contributed to the success were:
- Working with partners such as ‘Children in Wales’ to facilitate children and young peoples’ involvement from across Wales
- Enabling the children and young people to write, edit and produce the Annual Quality Statement by providing them the tools, skills and environment to enable this to happen
- Having the support of the Executive Team and the Board
- Listening to the children and young people who asked for a Youth Summit
- Enabling them to plan, facilitate and Chair the event
- Listening to their request for an annual event and ongoing involvement
- Involve partners who have existing networks to the group you wish to engage with
- Let the children and young people plan what they want – don’t underestimate their skills and knowledge
- Provide them with the skills to do this (e.g. communication training on how to write an article)
- Listen to what the children and young people are saying about their health needs. . . . they are our future population and know what they want!