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Peer Power Launches Formally at the House of Lords! - Peer Power
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Peer Power Launches Formally at the House of Lords!

New Peer Power charity launches to give vulnerable children a voice

Peer Power, a new children’s charity, launches today to help improve emotional health and well-being for vulnerable young people who have experienced multiple disadvantage. Supporting the development of trusting, supportive and consistent relationships, the charity empowers children to speak out. Through helping each other be- come Peer Power leaders, young people can influence policy and guide transformation in local services, thus being a catalyst for change. Future plans for the charity include helping these young people into employment.

Peer Power Founder, Anne-Marie Douglas said “Recent abuse of young people in Medway Secure Training Centre has revealed that often young people with adverse childhood experiences are not listened to. Peer Power is here to plug that gap. We know that it is possible to harness the potential of young people who have suffered trauma, neglect, abuse and crime by providing support and building trusting relation- ships, helping services to improve and enabling the young people to contribute positively to society. By instilling empathy, listening and taking real action we can tackle on-going institutional abuses of children in our care”.

HM Inspectorate of Probation’s recent report ‘Desistance and Young People’ published last month, found that “…those in our inspection successful in desisting from crime lay great store on a trusting, open and collaborative relationship with a YOT worker or other professional, seeing it as the biggest factor in their achievement”. It was recognised that not all YOT workers can achieve this.

A young person at a Peer Power consultation declared “Young people aren’t out of reach. Services are out of reach”. Working with young people to elicit their personal stories, Peer Power provides ‘Empathy Lab’ sessions to relevant professionals to help them better understand the children they are working with.

Jamie, now 23, told the launch guests “I have built so much confidence through volunteering around the country for Peer Power. I’ve realised my voice matters and I un- derstand that other people have their stories too. The system needs to change because our voices matter and wouldn’t be heard without charities like Peer Power. I strongly believe having a voice will alter people’s views like those in government and local authorities”.

Whitney, 17, said “Peer Power helps professionals’ to see real experiences through the eyes of a child…being involved with Peer Power has made me feel empowered to make a difference and I’ve felt a sense of belonging, everyone there has a passion, dedication and commitment to provide the best outcomes for children and young people.”

Ann Coffey MP said “I am very pleased to support Peer Power. Children and young people, who have experience of the care and justice systems, have an important contribution to make in supporting and mentoring other young people.” Ann was the author of ‘Real Voices – Child Sexual Exploitation in Greater Manchester’, published in 2014, in which young people talked of the tremendous support they had received from peer mentors who they often found easier to talk to than professionals.

The launch takes place today in the House of Lords with a range of invited guests, including a number of young people.

The Event

Over 60 people attended the event, sponsored by CACI. The stories from young people were particularly emotional and inspiring, with many moved to tears.

Lord McNally, Chair of the Youth Justice Board hosted and welcomed guests. He said,

“… only now and again does someone come along like Anne-Marie who can really make a difference, the Peer Power board is a collection of serious players committed to the vision and what they do.”

Jason spoke of his childhood experiences with a drug addicted mother, his experiences in care and how he found himself in the justice system. He is now speaking in schools to prevent other children making the same choices as he did.

Jamie, 23, showed a short film about his life and went on to talk about how it feels to have your voice heard, and about his volunteering work with Peer Power…by sharing his story, he helps other young people to open up and have their voices heard.

Whitney, 17, told the audience that no young people should be silenced or ignored when they are vulnerable. She spoke of her volunteering at Peer Power and how she is now training as a Peer Mentor and has been interviewed by BBC News about young people’s mental health. She then played her spoken word about a period in her life, and how she has been inspired to use her adverse life experiences to help others.

Founder, Anne-Marie Douglas explained why the charity had been founded, that in her 18 years’ experience working with this group, services were still not meeting their needs, nor listening to, this group of exceptionally vulnerable children and young people. She spoke about the costs to society of multiple vulnerability, the importance of relationships and involvement in services, and of harnessing the potential of young people for future employment.

Here, you can see photos from the event.

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