On Friday 23 November, Zak* was invited to take part in the Children’s Commissioner’s Takeover Day, a national event which gives children and young people the chance to shadow jobs and have their voices heard
A number of young people from around the country spent the day taking part in activities which saw them take over staff roles at the Children’s Commissioner’s office. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to get involved in the decision-making processes on special projects and key issues. As part of the day User Voice sent me along with a member of staff to find out what the Children’s Commissioner does and to offer my thoughts on young people’s issues. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was really looking forward to the whole day – especially to meeting the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner.
It started with a meet-and-greet and a welcome from Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England, and we were told how the day would go and what activities we’d be taking part in. I would be involved in discussing the complaints processes for young people. A key element of this was to find ways of ensuring young people not only had access to youth service complaints processes but that they were being listened to. It was a really enlightening session and was followed by lunch with Maggie Atkinson and the Deputy Children’s Commissioner Sue Berelowitz. After that I headed off to New Scotland Yard.
I really never thought I would be able to walk into New Scotland Yard to meet a police commissioner and was really nervous as I stepped inside, but once I met Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne high up on the 10th floor I was a lot more relaxed. Sue Berelowitz and I put forward our questions to him on topics like detention in police cells and ‘stop and search’. I felt it was a really positive meeting as I got to say what I felt about really important issues. The commissioner was a normal person, which surprised me a little as I’d expected him to be just like the police on the streets who stop and search young people for no reason. I was also surprised to find out that he does actually go out onto the streets and ask people how he can help and support them.
Next, I had a really interesting one-to-one session with Sue, which gave us both a chance to feed back to each other about how we felt the day was going. We talked about criminal records for young people and the impact they have as young people try to move into employment and higher education. Sue said it was something she would put in her business plan, which was quite encouraging.
At the end of the day we had a feedback session and were all given certificates for taking part. The whole day was a great opportunity to see what a working environment is like. It has also been a real confidence booster to have the opportunity to voice my opinion about the youth justice system.
*not his real name
Article taken from Issue 19