Twelve young people from St Helens have recently taken on the national Take Over Challenge, which puts children and young people into real-life decision-making positions in key organisations.
Locally, young people shadowed Mike Palin, Chief Executive for St Helens Council; Professor Sarah O’Brien, Strategic Director for the council’s People’s Services and Clinical Accountable Officer for St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG); and spent time in the offices of both St Helens MPs, Marie Rimmer CBE and Conor McGinn.
The campaign was set up by the Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield, whose role is to promote and protect the rights of children, especially the most vulnerable, and stand up for their views and interests.
The aim is to give children valuable insight and experience of a workplace, while organisations benefit from a fresh perspective on their work.
In the last two years alone, thousands of children have taken part across the country – stepping into the shoes of a wide range of adult jobs including everything from MPs, mayors, TV presenters and teachers to chief executives, business leaders and government officials.
Liam, age 18, accompanied Professor Sarah O’Brien, at a local mental health conference.
Liam said of the experience: “The day has been really good. We have been able to have conversations about mental health, and discuss how it is important to have trust to be able to open up. We were able to set deadlines for professionals to reduce waiting lists for mental health services and talk about plans to put mental health services in schools and in social care buildings. The event also enabled me to speak on behalf of other young people to give them a voice too.”
Nicole, age 12, was among those who shadowed Councillors Andy Bowden and Nova Charlton in the MP offices, and joined them as they went out to speak with business owners, including independent up-cycling store ‘Restore St Helens’ in Sutton. Nicole said: “The day made us think about where we could be in the future.”
St Helens Council’s Chief Executive, Mike Palin, who introduced several young people to some of the key stakeholders and businesses in the town centre, said: “Raising the aspirations of children and young people in St Helens is a key priority for the council, so we’re very much in support of this campaign. I was glad to welcome local young people into the council to see the work we do in making St Helens a thriving place in which to live, work and learn.
“It has allowed me to reflect on how we engage with young people about the borough’s plans, how we help them to prepare for employment, and to ensure they are part of investments in St Helens.”
The young people gave feedback on the day, and were awarded with certificates and thanked for their participation and enthusiasm.