County Durham appoints first young people’s commissioner

Michael Banks, chair of the Durham Safeguarding Children Partnership, and Amy Waites, County Durham’s young people’s commissioner

An aspiring child physiologist with a passion for youth work has been appointed as County Durham’s first young people’s commissioner.

Amy Waites will help ensure the voices of children and young people are heard and that their needs are met by professionals in the county.

As part of Durham County Council’s apprenticeship programme, earlier this year, the Durham Safeguarding Children Partnership (DSCP) interviewed young people from across the county for the new two-year apprenticeship position. The partnership is made up of agencies that are committed to keeping children safe, including Durham County Council, Durham Constabulary and NHS clinical commissioning groups. By appointing a young people’s commissioner, the DSCP hopes to provide more opportunities for children and young people to share what is important to them.

Amy, from Bowburn, was just what the partners were looking for.

For the past year, the 17-year-old has been studying for a level 3 qualification in early years and education (workforce) at New College Durham, as well as gaining valuable experience at Bowburn Infants and Nursery School two days each week. She is now working towards a NOCN level 3 diploma in youth work practise and hopes to progress onto higher qualifications and a career in child physiology.

Amy said: “I’ve always had a passion for working with children and love helping to teach at my local dance school, which I have been attending for the last ten years.

“I’m looking forward to engaging with young people and children in lots of different ways as part of my new role. Being a young person myself I understand some of the struggles, concerns and safeguarding issues that they face today. I’m hoping that being able to relate to young people will help me in my role.”

As part of the role, Amy will develop her skills in engaging with children and young people and speak up for them to ensure their voices are heard. This will include facilitating discussions where young people can have their say on decisions that affect them in an adult-free environment. She will support the young people to participate in the discussions and identify how the DCSP can improve services to keep children safe.

She will also play a lead role on the DSCP’s scrutiny panel, which will meet every six months and includes young people, families, community groups and those who work with children and young people. The panel scrutinises the partners’ work over the previous six months and helps to set priorities for the future.

In addition to this, Amy will ask agencies the partnership works with how they capture the voices of young people and will contribute to local, national and international debate about children’s rights and other priorities such as mental health, child exploitation and domestic abuse.

At the end of each year, she will co-ordinate an annual report bringing together a wealth of insight she has gained through a targeted and meaningful engagement programme. She will implore the DSCP to act on this feedback highlighting areas of good practice and priority areas for improvement and forward planning.

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children and young people’s services at Durham County Council, said: “Finding out what young people think about the services the DSCP provides and how they can be improved is incredibly important. That’s why I am delighted we now have a young people’s commissioner here in County Durham. I am really looking forward to hearing all of the ideas and insights she will bring to the partnership.”

Michael Banks, chair of the DSCP, said: “It’s an absolute pleasure to appoint Amy as our first young people’s commissioner. There were a number of strong applications for the post, but Amy’s enthusiasm, approachability and understanding of why the work of the DSCP is so vital really set her apart. I know she will be a valuable member of the team and I am sure the experience will also be of great benefit to her in her future career.”

For more information about the DSCP, visit: www.durham-scp.org.uk/

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