Jamel is a youth consultant at MAC-UK and spoke at the Youth Violence Commission on 6th December

My role at MAC is to utilise my own and other young people’s lived experience in a professional capacity to drive change in services and systems and I recently had the opportunity of sharing my experiences with the Youth Violence Commission at Portcullis House.

The commission is looking into the causes of poor mental health within young people, the effects of trauma and how these factors can contribute to violence amongst young people. Our CEO, Sinem Cakir, was invited by Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft to share evidence with them. I came along too as Sinem believed having a member of staff with lived experience of being involved in youth violence would be a beneficial contribution on the panel.

Sharing learning

We were both excited to have an opportunity to share our learning from a professional standpoint and a lived experience point of view with the people who most need to hear it - members of parliament who can affect real structural change.

One of the main things I shared was the need to do more work with young people in prisons. This is an area on intervention I feel isn’t focused on enough. These are talented young people that haven’t had the necessary support to thrive in their environments.

Instead of just locking these young people up, there needs to be some therapeutic work trying to understand want led them down the path they are on, the worries they have when they are released and how these can be reduced or rectified. This will reduce the rates of re-offending and provide role models with lived experience, that other young people that may be on the same path can relate to.

Jamel has also written another blog for us about meeting Prince Harry

Talking openly about mental health issues is still a problem for many black men, though a young black man on the panel has been working to try and change this. He said he was living proof that early intervention worked, having been referred to the NHS SLaM3 programme. There he learnt about and began to understand the impact that early life experiences had had on him and his mental health and that if it wasn’t for this programme he wouldn’t be here today.

Unfortunately, this programme ended due to funding and he was devastated that there aren’t more programmes like this. More work should be done to look into what this intervention offered, how it helped and how to replicate it elsewhere.

Reflections

This was a wonderful opportunity and really allowed Sinem and I to produce evidence in a context where it was heard and acknowledged, and hopefully taken forward. It was amazing to have such a diverse range of voices gathered and heard - from lived experience and frontline workers to NHS managers, police and MPs.

They all had different experiences and points of view but one thing that almost everyone agreed on is that the solution to this issue lies in building lasting relationships and that we need long term investment to properly effect change. However, this diversity is not seen commonly enough in similar situations.

Sinem made the point that young people should be authoring these recommendations to address youth violence with MPs backing their research and recommendations. This will give young people the platform to make effective changes to the services that impact them in their communities. It also allows for MPs to make better informed decisions about how to shape services and policies.

Everyone agreed that the solution to this issue lies in building lasting relationships and that we need long term investment to properly effect change

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to share my views of what can be done to reduce youth violence. I spent lot of time complaining about how things should change in my personal life before working in the 3rd sector and to be able to actually talk about these things with MPs is an achievement in my life that I will always be proud of, as this is something I never thought I would have the opportunity to do.

It is important to have young people with lived experience on as part of these commission meetings, and their experiences should be utilised more to shape new policies. They are the people best able to identify what works and what needs to be improved with current services and approaches to tackling youth violence.

I hope that all recommendations and issues discussed will lead to some active work being done in a variety of places. At the moment, the summary of this meeting has been published on the Youth Violence Commission’s website. It contains quotes from members of the panels and an overall of what was highlighted in each group. To be quoted in this type of document as a young black man is fantastic and I hope to feature in more of these types of documents in future.

Overall, the panel was a great opportunity to share some of the things we have learned at MAC-UK and having young people with lived experience speak at the commission is truly a ‘lead by example’ approach that all commissioning meetings should adopt. It would be even better if some of the MPs would come and spend a day with us. This will allow them to experience first hand what good practice co-production looks like. So if any MPs are reading this, consider it an open invitation to drop by anytime and see what we do!