Monthly News

The SEND Youth Advisors Surrey Logo. The silhouettes of three people arm in arm is shown, with the middle person in a wheelchair. To the right of this is the acronym SYAS with yellow, orange and purple squares behind it. Underneath it reads: SEND Youth Advisors Surrey. All of this is circled in bright orange.

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October 2020

Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Action, question and alert cards
  3. Consultation by theme:
  4. Rainbow Lanyards and pin badges: LGBTQ+ support
  5. Cooking Skills
  6. Mental health and SEND stigma
  7. What does participation mean to you?
  8. Letters from services
  9. Stress Awareness
  10. Bullying

Summary

This month, SYAS members shared some extremely powerful and personal stories. With their permission this newsletter shares some of their quotes and experiences with bullying.

Week to week there were three themes that came up repeatedly:

  • Stigma: mental health and SEND
  • The power of participation
  • Bullying

As a result of these themes coming up regularly, 2 new action cards were raised.

Action, question and alert cards

There are two new action cards this month:

  • Services need to address the relationship between SEND and mental health
  • Bullying continues to be prevalent and the young people believe that education on stigma as well as mental health and SEND throughout year groups and staff networks would help to decrease this

Five action cards were closed. Four of these cards related to Covid 19. SYAS recognised that there has been a national failure, and as a result, three of these action cards have been passed onto the Surrey Youth Cabinet to pursue:

  • Why was SEND friendly work not provided during lockdown?
  • Why were COVID guidelines for universities not UK wide and left up to the decision making of individual universities?
  • Why weren’t schools opened gradually so that pupils with SEND and mental health needs could get the extra support they required for returning to face-to-face lessons after lockdown?

One of the closed action cards related to SYAS and other young person participation groups run by the user voice and participation (UVP) team wanting to create LGBTQ+ action cards, especially around mental health & LGBTQ+ as well as working to reduce the stigma around the LGBTQ+ community:

  • The UVP team has committed to posting more LGBTQ+ social media content
  • The views of child and young people on the LGBTQ+ community were shared with the Surrey and Borders Partnership (SABP):
    • SABP will be providing webinar/training for professionals working with children and young people about people who are LGBTQ+
    • SABP will be creating an LGBTQ+ support pack
  • LGBTQ+ action cards can now be raised.

One very important question card was raised this month:

  • Are there protections in place to prevent letters containing private information from being sent to the parental homes of young people were safeguarding concerns have been raised?
    • SYAS raised that this is especially important for CAMHS letters which can contain very sensitive information.

Consultation by Theme

Rainbow lanyards and pin badges: LGBTQ+ support

I think that this is a “good idea and pronoun badges also may be a good thing to have. Gives people visible support and safe space options.”


One of the SYAS members shared that they knew someone who had been pushed into the canal for wearing a rainbow lanyard:

“The rainbow lanyard may make people a target” of crime.


As a result the group discussed how this is an example of why increasing visibility of support and safe spaces is important.

However, SYAS agreed that people need to make informed choices and be aware of the risks they may need to take to achieve visibility of causes that are important to them.

Cooking skills

In recognition of National Care Leavers Week (26th October – Sunday 1st November 2020), SYAS have decided that they would like more information on essential cooking skills and simple recipes shared on their website.

Examples of the types of information and recipes SYAS will be sharing:

  • Super quick meals
  • Low sensory meals
  • Low cost protein sources
  • Microwave mug cooking (e.g. mug cakes)
  • Vegetarian and vegan options
  • Leftover meals
  • Low risk cooking skills (e.g. recipes that do not include the use of knives or blenders.)
  • One pot meals
  • Popcorn!

SYAS will be testing out some Microwave mug cooking during their Virtual Christmas part this year!

Mental health and SEND stigma

It became very clear from this consultation that bullying is prevalent for young people with mental health and/or SEND needs.

“If you are different you are going to get bullied”

There is “not much understanding about how to stop [bullying and stigma] … people are still ignorant”


Some young people feel like their schools, colleges, peers and professionals judge their abilities solely by their diagnosis.

What I can do and achieve is “underestimated by the college and my peers because of my diagnosis


SYAS agree that there needs to be more public visibility of people with SEND needs. From a young age people should be educated about the effects of stigma, mental health conditions and SEND.

“Educate people so they can stop being mean”

“It should be taught as early as possible but adapt it for different years”


Importantly, SYAS raised that stigma is not only something they experience from their peers, but the professionals they work with as well. Everyone needs this education and it “should be repeated and brought up regularly”.

What does participation mean to you?

SYAS has helped me build friends but not just in SYAS, outside too, as it has given me confidence.

It is great to know that there are professionals out there on the other side of the table, knowing their not judging, but more understanding, they are trying to help get our voices heard so we can have a better experience in the services we use

I think the UVP team are amazing. You are nice people. Nice staff and young people. SYAS are amazing and so are the UVP team.”

“I think the staff are nice and the young people are nice too. You can really trust the staff and young people. It also keeps you busy in the week, so you know what you are doing on your timetable”

Letters from services

A lot of the letters that SYAS members receive from different services are aimed at their parents/guardians/carers.

“I would like letters sent to me because I am an adult!”.

“Mum reads them. Honestly wouldn’t want letters aimed at me. I wouldn’t take it in.”

Whilst there is some level of feeling like this is ok, young people also feel like they are missing out on information because it is not made accessible to them.

“It is better if [letters are] quite short and straight to the point”.

“I feel like I am missing out on information”.

“Unnecessary for letters to be full of jargon”.

Part of the problem is that so much irrelevant information is sent out, meaning important information is -hidden- within that.

“Can be annoying sometimes because they include content that isn’t necessary!”

“Sometimes you will get multiple letters about the same thing!”


When sending out letters for or about young people with SEND, it is important to remember that SEND can be hereditary:

“SEND can be hereditary … My mum hates letters. Worth considering when sending out letters”.


Several members of SYAS raised a very important question card regarding letters from services for young people with difficult home lives:

“Sometimes when young people are in difficult family situations … letters can contain very private information in, especially CAMHS letters. It should be considered whether letters should be sent home if there are safe-guarding issues raised, may put YP at risk if gets into wrong hands”.


Overall, SYAS members feel like letters from services should only be sent when necessary, be more accessible and young person friendly.

“Sometimes letters are sent that don’t need to be sent”

“Everything should be easy-read so then everyone can access it. It east read is not possible, at least as easy as possible.”

“I would prefer text messages.”

Stress awareness

“There are two types of stress, physical stress and mental stress … a lot of the stress I experience is more physical”

In the last week of October, SYAS looked ahead to stress awareness week (2nd- 6th November 2020) and considered what causes them stress and what techniques they use to manage their own stress.

“I look at the news every day and it does stress you out a bit”

Themes that cause SYAS members stress:

  • Homework
  • Friendships
  • Bullies
  • Covid 19 and lockdown
  • People
  • The News
  • Being adopted
  • Trauma

“I have some coping strategies when I am in a bad mood”

Stress management techniques used by SYAS members:

  • Playing video games: “I play my x-box a lot to manage stress”
  • Pets: “I play with our cats”, “Honey is my support dog”
  • Colouring in: “I like to colour in pictures of dogs”
  • Weighted blankets and jackets: “make you feel like you are being hugged”
  • Fidget Toys – there was big agreement in the group about these!
  • Rocking instead of fidget toys: “can be painful sometimes to use fine motor skills”

Bullying

This month SYAS have mentioned bullying a lot throughout group sessions. This has included both past and present cases.

With Anti-Bullying Week coming up (16th – 20th November), SYAS wanted to share some of their personal stories to help raise awareness:

“When I get bullied, I am quite defenceless. I don’t know what to do. I don’t always mention it as I don’t know if anyone can help me”

“I got really badly bullied, and there was one incident that was cyber bullying. I couldn’t sleep all night”

“Whenever I think about the online bullying I had I get really scared … the police had to be involved because it was so serious … it stopped because I blocked and reported them.”

A boy “started bullying me. Then we became friends. Then he started asking me to buy things after school … he tried to gain my trust by trying to stop other people from bullying me and then used that to try and get me to buy him money and sweets”. I told him “if you are just going to use me for money and sweets, then I am not going to talk to you anymore. Then he started bullying me again”.