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Listening to Young People through My Journey

Introduction

Buckinghamshire Council supports young people through lots of different services, depending on the young person’s needs and experiences. Through our Youth Participation Strategy, the Council has made a commitment to listen to the voices of the children and young people that receive support from our services, to act on what they say, and to respond to them on what difference their feedback makes. This is because we know young people are experts in their own lives, and that by listening to young people, we can improve our services so that they work well for young people.

My Journey is a tool we use to listen to young people.

My Journey is a structured conversation with a young person who has been receiving support from a professional like a Youth Worker. It is often paired with creative ways of expressing yourself, such as drawing. In the conversation, the professional and the young person review how things have been going, the impact of the support, and the young person’s achievements. ​​It also allows for the young person to reflect on their own experiences of the services, including what was good and not so good, which helps professionals to make improvements to their work. ​​

It uses the analogy of travelling down a road to capture the experience of a young person

Buckinghamshire Youth Justice and Support Team (previously called the Youth Offending Service) began using My Journey in 2019. The Youth Justice and Support Team supports children and young people who have committed an offence, or who are at risk of offending, to make positive changes.

The Youth Justice and Support Team found My Journey to be an effective way to help young people reflect on their learning and journey through the youth justice system. They also found that it was a useful tool to help gather young people’s feedback on how they experienced the support from all of the services they have come into contact with, and ways young people think the services could run better.

Because My Journey has been so useful in the Youth Justice and Support Team, other Council services have started to use it. These include the Family Support Service and the Missing and Exploitation Hub.

Photo of a whiteboard where somebody has worked through the life path model

How do we Listen, Act and Respond, using My Journey?

Listen

The professional that the young person has been working with schedules a meeting and tells them about the exercise. The activity is usually done towards the end of a young person’s support.

The young person is asked to draw a road with ‘stops’.
When the Youth Justice and Support Team uses My Journey, the worker asks the young person to identify the key points (“stops”) in their journey, which usually includes when they committed the offence, when they were arrested, court, when they first met the Youth Justice and Support Team, and so on.
When the Family Support Service uses the model, the stops are, ‘Before we met’, ‘when we met’, ‘working together’ and ‘moving forward’.​

For each stop, the worker asks the young person to answer questions, like…

  • Before we met, what were the main issues that were affecting you?
  • When we were working together, did you feel listened to and that your ideas were taken on board?​ Did you understand the reasons behind the activities that we did?​ What tips and techniques did you find helpful?
  • How were you feeling and what were you thinking at each stage? What could have made the experience better for you?

The worker and/or the young person write and draw the answers to the questions on the road in the matching places. The worker makes sure that the young person’s answers are captured in their own words.

Act

After they have finished the exercise, the worker takes a photo or saves a copy and the young person keeps the original copy.

The professional in the team who leads on My Journey looks at the copies and finds key messages about how well the service is running and how things could be done better.
Leaving any personal information behind, they copy the key messages into a separate report. The report is used to check:

  • what is working well
  • what isn’t working well
  • what suggestions young people have for improvements
  • if multiple young people have said the same thing

The professional making the report also includes recommendations of things the teams can do to make support for young people better.

The report is shared with colleagues.
In the Family Support Service, the report is emailed to everyone in the team to read and the messages are spoken about in team meetings where changes to the service are agreed.
In the Youth Justice and Support Team, the report is shared with the Youth Justice Board, which is a meeting of managers who lead on the Youth Justice Support Team and its development.

Respond

At the end of the exercise with the young person, the worker thanks the young person for their contributions and feedback.

Staff from different services are currently working together to ensure young people who give their feedback are able to hear updates about improvements made to the services as a result.

Impact and learning

 

The impact we’ve seen

Since adopting My Journey…

Professionals feel confident in supporting young people to reflect on their journey and provide feedback

“I find this tool gives both the young person and myself a chance to reflect on the work we have completed, the positive impact this has had and any ongoing concerns that require addressing as part of the exit strategy. I complete My Journey in the final session of the intervention and find this is a nice way to end the intervention as it gives the young person a sense of accomplishment when they can visually see the path they have travelled with the Youth Justice Support Team and how things have changed.” – Youth Justice and Support Team staff member

“My Journey can be a really positive way of helping a young person visually see how far they have come, as well as identifying areas they found useful or areas where they felt the support had been most valuable. It has given some good insight into how court can impact on young people and how we can support young people through this as well.” –Youth Justice and Support Team staff member

Managers and decision-makers receive direct messages from the young people receiving support from the services they run

“Since the introduction of My Journey there has been a wonderful opportunity to bring the child’s lived experience into strategic discussions in a way that previously we were unable to do. It has also supported us to probe further into certain feedback received, which has led to more detailed and analytical work. For example, it was the initial My Journey work from children which led to a bespoke feedback session on children’s lived experiences with the police. This work enabled us to think about how we can enhance the use of Youth Justice and Support Team police officers within the service and our work with schools police officers to improve how our young people saw and felt about police. The model supports us to use feedback to improve aspects of service delivery which may have previously been overlooked.”  – Youth Justice Board member

Young people are supported to reflect on their journeys and learning, supporting the embedding of their new skills

“Life path [My Journey] bit is really helpful. It’s helping me to map out what I’ve achieved while on my order and what I can continue doing once I stop working with you. I think it’s helpful giving my mum a copy so she can stick on the fridge at home. I can also see what support I can get if I ever feel low or at crisis point in future.” – Young person working with the Youth Justice and Support Team.

 

Examples of improvements made

 

Example 1 – from the Family Support Service

Some young people said that they felt nervous before joining our group sessions because they did not know how many young people would be attending.  As a result we have updated our information pages on BFIS to include more information about group numbers.  We have also produced a leaflet for young people when they sign up for a course so that they know what to expect. Youth workers will also make sure sure that they speak to young people signed up to a course beforehand to talk to them about it and to reassure them.

Some young people said that they would like courses at a different time so that they don’t clash with meal times or homework, so we are trialling daytime sessions during the school holidays.

Example 2 – from the Youth Justice and Support Team

A number of young people completing My Journey told us that their experience of being in Police Custody could have been more positive.

This was discussed at the Youth Justice Partnership Board where the Police are represented and, as a result, trauma-informed practice training was delivered by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services to custody staff.  Feedback from young people on their time in Police Custody has subsequently improved.

Example 3 – from the Missing and Exploitation Hub

While the model is a recent addition to the Missing and Exploitation Hub’s engagement with children and young people and we are within the early stages of embedding this, initial feedback from young people and workers using this model has been positive.

The My Journey model has enabled a young person to reflect on their journey within the service in that they were able to recognise their experience of grooming and exploitation.
They have been able to reflect on the support of the service and consider their future aspirations by looking ahead. Comments received included “you was nice a polite” and “I felt like you listened.”

Final reflections

“It is vitally important that the lived experiences of children and young people using services in Buckinghamshire are heard, understood and acted upon. The My Journey model is just one way of seeking this feedback which enables a child or young person of any age to engage and contribute through creativity. It provides immediate feedback and guidance on how we as services can make improvements to the children and young people that we provide a service to.” – Jenni Hathaway, Youth Justice Support Team and Exploitation Hub Manager

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Want to know more?

If you would like to know more about the examples given in this case study, please email youthvoicebucks@buckinghamshire.gov.uk.

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