Kiaron (third from right) is a youth engagement practitioner with MAC-UK currently working mainly with the Leaving Care team at Havering Council

My MAC-UK journey first started as a service user with the Music and Change project and now I am a youth engagement practitioner for MAC, working across the organisation in various roles.

I would like to talk about working within a local authority and my take on it. In July this year we joined Havering’s leaving care team to support their transition to a new way of working, and to share our learning over the years of working with statutory services.

While working at MAC-UK I have seen and experienced first-hand a different kind of support and approach to young people’s services. Young people are seen as part of the solution, not the problem, we work with them, not for them, and co-production is at the heart of everything we do. Previously my encounters with school and youth offending was the complete opposite - topdown, no real say in what I wanted and always told what to do.

Havering wanted to change the way they supported their young people and seeked support from us. They wanted a more youth-led and co-produced service to improve youth engagement which would later lead onto better wellbeing and outcomes.

Kiaron speaking at a MAC-UK event hosted at Parliament

Change is difficult

At first I was quite sceptical about whether a local authority could change to be like that. The way they worked before was so different and the systemic barriers to change were so great I didn’t think it would be possible.

Doing things differently hadn’t been possible before. However, new management came in and promoted not only a new way of thinking but the space for for their staff to be able to think and work differently.

An example of this is the the HUB, Havering’s take on co-production which is going really well. Havering wanted to provide something for care leavers that would connect young people and the borough together. They approached the problem by working with young people and employing them for their expertise and they are seen as invaluable part of the solution.

The result has been the creation of the HUB, which is a space that the young people feel comfortable in and provides tangible opportunities for them. The HUB is one of Havering's ways to address some of these issues.

MAC-UK’s role in this it to work alongside the Leaving Care team and to provide expertise and support, coupled with on the ground and lived experience of co-producing services, and help embed the MAC-UK and INTEGRATE principles in all of their work.

For me, this means going through case files and thinking with practitioners how INTEGRATE principles can be applied to their work and supporting young people where needed.

My role within this is to help the Young People’s Advisors (YPAs) think about individual young people, to offer my lived experience of services and being on the ground within communities and care homes. I do this by going through case files with YPAs and making informal mappings of young people, being on the ground in youth hostels speaking directly with young people, promoting youth leadership in Havering and helping the YPAs to really understand who they are working with.

Change is possible

When working with individuals, everything has to be tailored to that person's needs, and that takes time and resilience

Before working in this role I had never worked in a local authority/service and had always had a negative opinion of the support that they provide from my own experiences. But after becoming a part of the leaving care team that has all changed. Being on the other side or receiving support you don't see what's going on behind the scenes. A lot of time and effort is put into individual care plans, although teams may be stretched and overworked.

Although the YPAs care deeply and are dedicated to their work, the services don't really understand what it's like to be a young person in Havering and don't necessarily have the time to. When working with individuals, everything has to be tailored to that person's needs, and that takes time and resilience.

This is where MAC-UK and the MAC-UK approach come in. We help provide lived and on the ground experience of youth-led and co-produced services, clinically informed ways of working which allow us to do our jobs safely and better and bridge the gap between services and young people. Project Future, The Hive, the REACH team and now Havering’s The HUB are all living proof that change is possible.