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OSCB Safeguarding Conference: Understanding My World

In March 2020 our founder Sarah Burrows and some of the young people we support were invited to speak at the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board’s annual safeguarding conference. The theme of the conference was ‘Understanding My World’ and focused on hearing children’s voices to better understand their lived experience. As well as Children Heard And Seen, attendees heard from children and young people from CiCC and VOXY, and Step Out Safer Together Youth Ambassadors, along with speakers from Children’s Social Care, Autism Family Support, Mind of My Own, the Clinical Commissioning Group, Thames Valley Police, Youth Justice Service and keynote speaker Lemn Sissay.

Five young people from our Youth Advocates group, JasmynLukeKyzirZayn and Kayim, met up in the weeks before the conference to plan their presentation and what they wanted to say. Rather than tell their own stories, they decided to read quotes from other children who are supported by Children Heard and Seen. This meant that they could make sure that the voice of the child was heard and minimised the chance of them getting upset by having to tell their own stories.

“When the story was printed in the newspaper, our family had to move because we were getting harassed so badly. It got to the point where our Mum was physically attacked all because our address was all over the media. People didn’t care that there were three innocent children in our house.”

The impact of media reporting on a parent’s offences in a local newspaper.

Sarah spoke about the impact of parental imprisonment on children and young people, and how the lack of a national database means that these children and families fall through the gaps and do not get the support that they need, let alone have their voices heard. This was one of the main reasons behind setting up the charity in 2014. The young people spoke about issues that they face as a child with a parent in prison, including witnessing their parent’s arrest, the impact of media reporting, visiting their parent in prison and the support they have received from Children Heard and Seen.

Coming to the group has helped because when I talk about things it makes me feel better. It’s good for us to go out and meet other children and speak to other children, it’s nice and social. Hearing how other children feel makes you feel like you are not the only one.

How coming to one of our groups has supported one of our young people.

As always, our young people spoke with maturity and clarity and got a rousing round of applause from the 200 attendees as well as praise from keynote speaker Lemn Sissay. Following on from the conference we received some excellent feedback on the presentation and the young people’s participation:

I think you are owed special thanks for co-ordinating such a lovely group of young people to share their experiences with us. They were so fresh, energetic and friendly. I am sure that it also goes to show what your organisation has done to support them; I could see from the video played and hear from the stories that they told, that they and their friends have had really challenging times to go through. We could see how much this work means to you and why we should also know about it. Thanks so much to them for coming with you and sharing some really important messages to the audience there.

Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board
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