London is a city seen as having endless opportunities. But for the young Londoners who grow up here that is not always the case. School exclusions, absence of affordable housing and lack of secure employment all add pressure – impacting on health and wellbeing and limiting wider opportunities.

Resolving these issues will not be easy. But what is clear is that we will need to bring in the experts – young Londoners. They are the ones living these experiences and it’s essential their voices are brought in as part of their conversation. So, they can be part of the solution and not seen as part of the problem.

It’s been almost four months since our first VIP BIG Takeover, where the young Londoner VIPs looked at our big business challenges. But what about the wider issues? We want to make sure their voices are heard as part of the wider conversation around violence and exploitation in London.

Providing opportunities for young Londoners to share their perspectives, ideas and their opinions is a priority for Safer London.

Sherry Peck, CEO Safer London

So that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve facilitated opportunities for the Safer London VIPs to have their voices heard. This year we’ve brought this dynamic group together with the Faculty of Public Health Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) to have important discussions.  

I don’t really feel like we’re listened to. Our voices aren’t heard. The youth are the ones that need to be heard as they are the ones going through it.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine asked our VIPs How do young people become victims of criminal exploitation?, whereby MOPAC wanted to know what young Londoners affected by violence and exploitation needed and wanted from support services.

When asked what they would do if they had £1million to spend on reshaping London’s services for children and young people the VIPs said they would want…

  • Training for professionals, so support was consistent and high quality. They also said they’d want training for young Londoners, so they are able to support one another through times of hardship.
  • Specialist mental health and emotional wellbeing support to be built within organisations and charities, rather than having to rely on accessing CAMHS. They shared their personal experiences with CAMHS – that it takes a long time to access, that they feel they are not treated with care and consideration throughout the process of accessing support, and then when they do access it it’s not fit for their needs.
  • Pathways and support for young Londoners to get into long term and secure employment. They want young Londoners to have more access, or to understand how to access, more opportunities, as this will set them up for positive futures.
  • Services to be more youth-led. That the support is shaped and designed by the young Londoners who use them.
The VIPs shared their thoughts on what services for young Londoners affected by violence and exploitation should look like

Thinking to the last point, the group shared their thoughts about what good – and bad – support looks like to them. They said support should…

  • be consistent and reliable;
  • focus on the positives – rather than fixate on young Londoner’s negative experiences;
  • focus on personal strengths of young Londoners;
  • not be patronizing
  • provide as space for young Londoners to talk about they want honestly and openly;
  • be where it’s needed, when it’s needed and for however long it’s needed for.
The VIPs felt that to much of support focused on negative experiences and not personal strengths

We’re committed to ensuring our services and support our shaped by the voices for young Londoners. We’ve already started this process, with the VIPs involved in sessions around service design, and we’ll further embed youth voice by developing robust feedback mechanisms throughout every step of each young Londoners’ journey with us.

We hope that not just these conversations will help shape London’s wider offer and that young Londoners will continue to be invited to collaborate on what they look like.  

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