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Wirral’s Special Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) Youth Voice Conference 2020  

On Friday 31st January Wirral SEND Youth Voice Group hosted their 3rd annual Conference at Pilgrim Street Arts Centre. Back in September 2019 when they started planning the event, the young people asked us to do things a little differently this time. They wanted the invitations to be restricted to the Heads of Services and the Directorate; they wanted attendees to be the people who have the autonomy to drive change and make the differences they tell us, as Professionals, they need.

Here’s what they had to say: “This year we asked for the people who can make decisions to attend. We need support. We need people who can help us on our journey. We are so pleased that Wirral’s Chief Executive Paul Satoor came to one of our evening sessions and asked us to talk to him about what we need and what we’d like to see in Wirral. It’s fantastic to have his support!  Wirral’s Head of (SEND) and Inclusion, Tarun Ghosh also came to join us and must have had a great night as he’s coming back soon.  

Our journey as a disabled young person is hard. Our journey as a disabled young person can be difficult. Sometimes it makes us feel ‘WHY ME?’. We see our difference as a strength, it makes us unique, it makes us who we are. Everyone has a block, a thing, that they struggle with. We just need that extra support and insight to be seen, heard and to help us make things happen. We don’t want to be an action; we don’t want to rely on others. We want to have a voice, have our issues raised, with a hope that things can and will improve. We’d like the 2020 Conference to explore what is offered in Wirral and question whether it empowers us? We also want to find the best way to ensure all services capture the voice of disabled young people both now and in the future?” 

So …. that’s what happened. 45 attendees from Health, Education, Social Care, Merseyside Police and Wirral Councillors were welcomed to the event and, from the feedback received, spent a worthwhile and entertaining morning actively listening and learning first-hand from the young people’s experiences.

The group performed a drama piece entitled ‘The Web’ which was a powerful visual of one of the groups rather’ bumpy and disjointed’ SEND journey. They also showed two films entitled ‘Joke’ and ‘Hero’ created at their Tuesday night sessions. Within four work groups the professionals listened and contributed to discussions around three questions. The dangers of services making assumptions, how services can empower disabled young people and how best to devise a process that ensures the voice of the young person is both captured and acted upon. 

Supported by Wirral’s Local Offer Lead Sally Tittle, Seline Wakerley, Wirral’s Participation & Engagement Dance Lead and Youth Arts worker Claire Parr, this inspirational group are always well prepared and comfortable to host the Conference in their safe space. Not content to champion SEND youth voice here in Wirral, over the last year they have also represented on both a regional and national platform. 

The event concluded with attendees being asked to make a pledge that they, and their service, will work to deliver over the next 12 months. As many of you will know one of our SEND youth voice group members, Poppy Cain now works as an Apprentice on Wirral’s SEND Local Offer. Poppy is Wirral homegrown talent, developed by Sally, Seline and her staff and is bringing a constant, previously missing, strand of youth voice. Policies, pathways, charters, surveys, engagement in schools, parental engagement in partnership with Wirral’s invaluable third sector organisations and much, much more. Poppy will take responsibility for collating and managing the pledges attendees made and keep the group updated with progress being made. 

The young people completed a feedback form and said they felt listened to, encouraged and hopeful that 2020 will be a year that delivers and progresses the way SEND is viewed, supported and resourced.  


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