The conversations project: a report to the steering group of the national review of services for disabled children and young people

Victoria Williams, Nicki James, Margaret Barclay, Kirsten Stalker, Nick Watson, Katherine Hudson

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    Abstract

    We started the Conversations Project because we wanted to find out what
    things were most important to disabled young people and what they thought
    about the services and activities that they used and what they would like to
    see developed. The project involved 65 disabled young people from across
    Scotland. They were recruited from 10 organisations and were aged between
    9 and 22; 39 were male and 26 female. The conversations took place in a
    variety of places including schools, youth groups and short breaks centres.
    Six main themes emerged from the young people’s discussions.
    These were:
    1. Consultation and participation
    The young people felt that it was important they were listened to, and that they
    understood the reasons for decisions that affected them.
    Many of the young people who took part in the Conversations Project felt that
    they were listened to. They felt that they had opportunities to put their views
    forward and to say what they liked and disliked about many things. Many of
    the groups the young people attended encouraged them to plan their own
    activities and some young people were also involved in self-advocacy work
    and had spoken at conferences.
    The young people did not always agree with decisions that affected them but
    generally understood why they had been made.
    Not having the opportunity to put their views forward, or being provided with
    explanations for important decisions, made young people feel frustrated and
    lacking in control.
    The young people wanted to be treated as individuals and for people not to
    make assumptions about them based on their age or the fact that they were
    disabled.
    2. Involvement in activities outside school
    Young people enjoyed a range of activities including swimming, computer
    games and socialising with friends. They wanted to have ‘normal’ social lives
    and to spend time with people their own age. However many of the children
    who took part in the project did not experience this.
    Difficulties with accessing public transport meant that many young people had
    to rely on their parents or, in some cases, stay at home when not at school.
    Some young people felt that there was not much for them to do in the local
    area while those who did not attend school locally felt isolated as they did not
    know other children where they lived.
    Many of the young people talked about their positive experiences with groups
    and clubs for disabled children and young people. These were an opportunity
    for them to enjoy activities with others their own age.
    3. Relationships
    Having friends their own age was very important to the young people who took
    part in the project. Groups and clubs gave people the opportunity to do things
    with other young people but did not always lead to real friendships.
    Various barriers to making friends were identified. Difficulty meeting up with
    people outside of school was a common problem. The need to arrange
    personal support or transport meant that some young people could not easily
    get together with others. It also meant that they were often accompanied by
    adults.
    Some young people found school to be a lonely experience. Those who
    attended a ‘special’ unit at a mainstream school did not feel that they were
    part of the main school and other pupils were not always accepting of
    difference. People who attended a special school had difficulty maintaining
    friendships outside of schools.
    Times of transition could make it hard to maintain friendships as people
    moved away or went on to do different things.
    4. Physical and attitudinal barriers faced by the young people
    Access to transport was a major barrier mentioned by many of the young
    people. There were practical difficulties using buses and trains whilst the
    negative attitudes among some drivers had put some young people off using
    public transport.
    A lack of disability awareness was also highlighted and several young deaf
    people had experienced poor deaf awareness in audiology services. These
    issues could be addressed with better training.
    5. Transitions
    The young people needed more information about moving from school to
    college, university or work.
    The move from school to college made some people nervous. They were
    often unaware of other options that might be available or how going to college
    might benefit them in the long term. This meant they could not make informed
    decisions about whether or not to go to college or what to study.
    The transition from school to university had been positive for those who had
    experienced it. However, some young people believed it would not be possible
    for them due to their support needs. Again, better information is needed about
    the options and support available.
    6. Aspirations for the future
    The young people expressed a variety of hopes and ambitions for the future.
    They hoped to have their own homes and families.
    They wanted to work and many had ideas about what jobs they would like to
    do. They wanted support and guidance to achieve this.
    Aspirations were often focussed on the short term. Young people needed to
    be encouraged to think about what they might want to achieve in the long term
    and the support that they would need to do this.
    Conclusion
    The young people involved in this study felt positive about many aspects of
    their lives, including being listened to and the support they received from
    voluntary organisations. However, many of the young people lacked
    opportunities to develop friendships with people their own age and felt socially
    isolated. More needs to be done to make sure that disabled young people are
    fully included in their local community. Finally, the project showed that young
    people did not always have the information they required to be able to make
    informed decisions. If consultation is to be meaningful and young people are
    to be able to have a greater say about their lives, then they need access to
    advice and support.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationEdinburgh
    Number of pages48
    ISBN (Electronic)978780458762
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

    Keywords

    • conversations project
    • steering group
    • children
    • young people
    • disabled
    • services
    • disability services development
    • scotland
    • advice and support

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