The Seen + Heard Programme is a creative arts and rights–based programme designed specifically for looked after children, aged 9/10/11 years old. It focuses on understanding and balancing the individual needs of the children and encouraging their continued engagement and participation in a group of their peers, with emphasis on: working together as a team, building confidence and self-esteem, and enabling them to share their views, ideas, voices, challenges and successes.
It aims to improve the well being of younger looked after children from across Fife; enabling them to explore their rights, have a say in matters that affect them, and speak directly to the Corporate Parent Board (CPB) and other adult decision makers. Children on the programme develop the skills, behaviours, values and knowledge they need to take part and be included in everyday life at home, at school and in the community. An important part of the programme is working in partnership with parents and carers, teachers, social workers and other adults and professionals who are involved in supporting the children.
The first group was piloted in 2015/2016; the group was made up of ten children; three Care Experienced Young People (CEYP) – as Youth Ambassadors; two Children’s Parliament Project Workers and two Corporate Parent Development Officers. The project provided an innovative opportunity to test and develop an approach of engaging with younger children to obtain their views on the services they receive, which in return, fully informed future service improvement activity.
The group discussed their experiences of being in care and of the support and services they’d received or would like to receive. They talked about the following themes of: Who We Are, Where We Live, Health & Happiness, Feeling Safe & Cared For, Freedom and Having Our Say. This first group has gone on to a ‘Transition’ group – where we continue to engage with the children with further consultations and activities, to maintain relationships and to continue to support them as they move into secondary school.
In 2016/17, Fife Corporate Parent Board and Children’s Parliament were keen to provide the opportunity to more children and we were able to facilitate two groups.
Over the last two years we worked with 27 children across placements types (foster, kinship, at home). Some children were new to care and others were in transition from foster back to parent; some had permanence orders in place and others did not.
In 2017/18, we are running two more groups: “Seen + Heard 1 & 2”. We are looking to work with 20 new children this year, as well as continue our engagement with the groups of previous years: “Transition 1 & 2”.
This project targets looked after children who fit the following criteria:
- Looked after children in a Fife geographical placement (own or purchased) -foster, kinship or at home
- Children who are 9/10/11 years old and in P6 or P7 in the upcoming academic year.
- Children who wished to participate in and would respond to a group using creative arts and focused group work
As a result of their participation in Seen + Heard Fife, the children had/were:
- Increased confidence and self-esteem, reporting that they felt much more positive about themselves, their abilities and skills and their futures.
- Increased confidence in sharing their ideas and views with new people/adults.
- Increased confidence in working independently and in a team.
- More focused approach to tasks, even if they were difficult. Children were more able to concentrate and had more confidence to try new things and take risks.
- More aware of their feelings and emotions and how to effectively manage them.
- Were better at making and maintaining friendships, bonding and better at working cooperatively and co-operating with others.
- More willing to talk and share experiences about being in care and were more able to recognise and understand their potential role to contribute in relationships, their school and in the community.
- Developed better relationships with peers and adults and as a result reported feeling more secure, included and respected.
- Increased awareness of the Corporate Parent Board and its role in their lives.
“I’ve changed the way I think, my decision making I mean. Before, if someone was making me angry, I would push them. Since coming here, I wouldn’t push them. I’m better at talking to people now.” – Seen + Heard participant
“It’s comfortable for us to talk about being in care here because we are all in care.” – Seen + Heard participant
“The gentle, calm and friendly atmosphere at the beginning of each session certainly seemed to relax the children. The feeling of wellbeing allowed the children to express themselves more easily during discussion times.” – Carer
“It seems to have helped the children grow in confidence. The work done on identity and expression of feelings is crucial for this cohort. They are learning to participate in groups, listen to others and express their own views.” – Social Worker
“Kept me in touch with young looked after children and helps to ground me in practice as much of my work doesn’t now involve contact with service users/young people. It helps to focus the Corporate Parent Board on issues for children.” – Corporate Parent Board member