YOUNG people are being given the chance to improve health and social care services in Tamworth.
Young People’s Healthwatch is a new initiative that will gather the views and experiences of under-25s and ensure they have a voice on issues that affect them.
It has been developed by watchdog Healthwatch Staffordshire in partnership with fellow community interest company Sporting Communities.
And they’re keen to ensure work of the programme, launched ahead of National Volunteers Week (June 1-7), is led by young people themselves.
Jan Sensier, chief executive of Engaging Communities Staffordshire, which delivers Healthwatch, said: “Children and young people face a range of disadvantages and inequalities just like the rest of society and their problems are often significant and complex.
“Health and social care needs to work effectively for them and, if there’s anything that needs to be improved, we need to know about it.
“Young People’s Healthwatch will provide a platform to find out what young people think about services in their area and, by listening to their views, we can better understand the issues and barriers they face.
“The feedback will be used to make services more suitable and accessible for young people as well as reducing the resources spent on those that are not meeting their needs.
“It will also reveal patterns and trends which can identify areas that need to be addressed.”
The initiative will deliver a raft of practical benefits too, according to Ms Sensier.
She added: “It will act as a central hub delivering vital information, support and advice to help young people in their day-to-day lives.
“We know from past experience that under-25s experience issues specific to their age group and that it’s sometimes difficult for them to find out what to do or where to go.
“Now they’ll have direct access to that information and could also learn new skills through our training programme.”
Input from young people themselves is regarded as crucial to ensure the work of Young People’s Healthwatch is relevant.
Volunteers could become young ambassadors – to help spread the word about Healthwatch and represent the organisation at local events – or mystery shoppers, who go undercover to gather feedback about health and social care services.
They could also be ‘media gurus’ – charged with developing social media and other advertising resources aimed at young people – or researchers.
Ms Sensier said: “We want Young People’s Healthwatch to focus on issues that are most important to this particular age group so we’re looking for under-25s to make a genuine contribution towards improving life for themselves and their peers.
“Volunteers can come from any walk of life – the only criteria they need is to have an interest in the delivery of health and social care in their area.
“It’s a chance to make a difference to the community, meet new people, enhance skills and knowledge and access training and support. It can also add valuable experience to a CV and volunteers only give as much time as they can.
“Only by working together can we hope to ensure the services and support available is the best it can be.”
For more information, go to www.healthwatchstaffordshire.co.uk/young-peoples-healthwatch