Care Leavers Week: How Look Ahead is amplifying voices

Published: 24th October 2022
Care Leavers Week is a reminder that care and support providers must find new ways to listen to and promote the voices of young people, writes Look Ahead's Director of Young People and Care Leaver Services, Lynn Gradwell.

This Care Leavers Week the theme is ‘amplifying voices’ and having worked with young people for more years than a lady of my age would want to mention, I don’t think there has ever been a more important time to help our young people get their voices heard.

Increasing costs of living together with a chaotic political and economic environment are all adding to the pressures faced by many, but especially young people who can find their voices marginalised. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Being in difficult times doesn’t mean not taking the time to listen. It means we have to listen harder to what young people are saying to us.

At Look Ahead we value the views of our young people. This year we held the Big YP conversation to get feedback from our customers on what is most important to them, and this informed our five-year strategy.

They told us that they needed more support with their mental health, and we listened. This is why we’re pleased to have launched an innovative partnership with the online arts and creative writing therapeutic platform ZunTold.

Look Ahead has launched an innovative partnership with the online arts and creative writing therapeutic platform ZunTold.

Amplifying young voices is at the heart of this programme. ZunTold provides young people with a place to reflect on and share their own experiences through the medium of literature. Its most important feature is that it gives our customers the chance to write stories, letters, and other pieces of their own, that help them to build up their confidence and, most importantly, express and re-tell their own lives in a new and more powerful way, and then discuss this with a trained therapist.

Look Ahead customers get the opportunity to read and review novels and short stories from the programme’s extensive library. These reviews are far more personal than usual, as they focus not on the writer but on the reader and what the content that they have read means to them. These parts of the programme also serve to build up our customers’ confidence and skills so that they feel they can and should speak up more forthrightly in other areas of their lives too, it is a reminder to our young people that they have, and indeed deserve the right to be listened to. Moreover, it reminds us as Look Ahead staff of our duty to protect and facilitate this right wherever possible.

Each and every person we work with has a unique and special journey. I believe our role as professionals is to ensure that they are given the opportunity to have their voice heard whilst in our services and go on with the confidence to build a brighter future.

We’re looking forward to sharing more stories during the week about some of our amazing young people and how we are helping them to ‘amplify their voices’.