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The Big ShoutER 

The Big ShoutER is a youth involvement, community research and peer education project linked to the East Renfrewshire Youth Health Service. The project focuses on influencing positive change in the design and delivery of youth services in East Renfrewshire. 

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What are the aims and objectives?

The Big ShoutER project aims to actively involve young people in decisions affecting them to help them to become effective contributors, successful learners, confident individuals, and responsible citizens, all of which contributes to and impacts upon a young person’s physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. 

The project aims to ensure that young people involved in the peer education and community research project are able to:

  • Identify their own health needs.
  • Develop the skills and confidence to work as part of a team.
  • Develop skills in a range of media and information technology.
  • Improve their skills to research and identify the health needs of local young people.
  • Improve their knowledge of health issues affecting young people and the community.
  • Improve their skills and confidence to engage with and present their findings to local service providers.
  • Improve their skills and confidence to deliver health messages to local young people.
  • Develop skills in identifying personal growth. 

Furthermore, the project aims to show that young people can make a positive contribution to their communities and demonstrate the benefits of staff and young people working together on related topics.

Why was the project set up? Has the approach changed over time?

The project was set up following young service users from ‘The Place’ at the East Renfrewshire Youth Health Service expressing an interest in having more of a say in the delivery of the youth health service. Following discussions it was evident that young people wanted to be more involved in decisions which were taken about them.  However, there were no mechanisms in place which allowed young people to direct the services that were being targeted at them, such as smoking cessation services. The young people stated that they would like “more than just lip service” – they wanted to be fully engaged and listened to rather than continually being consulted with no real change as a result.

Following meetings with local young people and CHCP staff, a plan was developed to start a peer education, user involvement and community research project.  East Renfrewshire staff became aware that other young people from East Dunbartonshire were discussing similar issues and joint training on health issues and youth engagement was suggested. 

A number of meetings and a successful residential event, named ‘The Big Shout’, attended by young people from East Renfrewshire (ER) and East Dunbartonshire (ED), led to a plan for youth health services and how young people should be consulted and engaged. The establishment of the Big ShoutERs (East Renfrewshire) and the Big ShoutED (East Dunbartonshire) followed. 

Who are the participants and the partners?

The Big ShoutERs project is open to any young person aged over 12 and who lives in East Renfrewshire. Young people come to the project from a variety of routes including from other community projects and via recommendations from other young people and youth workers. The project currently engages with five young people aged between 16 and 17 years, most of whom are from deprived areas of East Renfrewshire, and all of whom have overcome low self esteem and confidence issues since joining the project.

“It’s a good group of people. We all come from different places but we all get on and work well together.”

The project is led by the health improvement team, East Renfrewshire CHCP, working in close partnership with the young person’s services team of East Renfrewshire Council. The project is supported by two staff members and works in partnership with East Dunbartonshire CHCP and local service providers.

What does the project do?

The Big ShoutER (user involvement, community research and peer education project) was established by young volunteers, with a desire to influence positive change in health and community settings. The young people initially approached the Youth Health Service staff to share their ideas and vision of improving the health of the local young people by ensuring that the ‘expressed’ health needs of young people in East Renfrewshire are being addressed.

The Big ShoutERs designed and facilitated a youth health consultation, supported by the Walt Fund.  They consulted with local young people, specifically targeting those identified as the most vulnerable and hard to engage with, including young people leaving care, young carers and young people with additional support needs. Over the last 12 months, over 280 local young people have been consulted with to identify their health needs and health issues. The consultation sessions have been facilitated in a creative way by using a bed and scraps of material to produce a patchwork quilt covered with health issues. The youth consultation event identified four key health issues for young people, namely smoking, sexual health, healthy eating and physical activity, all underpinned by mental health improvement. 

“We started off with a blank sheet of paper but the action plan is now a yellow brick road."

The findings have been disseminated to senior managers in East Renfrewshire CHCP via Integrated Children’s Services Planning Groups, and to local school children and young people via a health festival to enable them to influence local policy makers and service providers. The Big ShoutERs have also presented their findings to local service providers to help shape future service design. The young people involved with the project are linking in to the Public Partnership Forum to ensure youth voices continue to be heard. 

Based on the health issues emerging from the consultation with young people and to inform the next stage of the project, the Big ShoutERs have been involved in training on:

  • Youth involvement
  • Mental health
  • Sexual health
  • Tobacco control
  • Gender based and domestic violence
  • Health issues in the community.

The Big ShoutERs have carried out extensive research on a range of health topics and young people’s views on them. This has led to the group speaking at a number of high profile international and national conferences including the international conference on Assets of Health and Wellbeing across the Lifecourse in London in September 2011.

At the time of writing, the Big ShoutERs are embarking on the delivery of peer education sessions with other young people on various health topics both within the school and community setting.

In what way is the approach ‘asset based’? 

The Big ShoutER project works to build the skills of young people through joint learning and shared experiences. Through the work of the programme, new relationships and friendships have been built, and confidence, sense of purpose, self belief and self esteem all increased. The direction of the project is led by the young people and staff work alongside to support them in a responsive and adaptable manner and to ensure the project remains manageable.

The project is focused on developing and improving life skills and enhancing the strengths and personal resources of young people. Involvement in the project challenges, inspires and empowers the young people, enabling them to find the best within themselves and supporting them to make long lasting improvements in their lives, relationships and wider communities.

“It’s about letting the young people lead the way.”

The community research and consultation elements of the project have allowed young people to actively engage with other young people and to identify the health issues affecting young people in East Renfrewshire. This has built and developed both practical research skills and knowledge and softer communication skills. The peer support element of the project allows the young people to share their knowledge about health issues in a mutually supportive way within their own peer group.

Furthermore, the approach taken by the project allows young people to be fully engaged, to be able to actively influence and have a clear voice in the design and development of health related services, ensuring that the vision and ideas of local young people are recognised, taken on board and addressed.

How has success been measured?

A system of ongoing monitoring of youth engagement is in place using a wide variety of tools. These include participant evaluation forms following youth led events in local communities, staff observation sheets and Big ShoutER participant pre and post assessment tool. The minutes of meetings with service providers are also recorded to express how the young people’s views are being fed into service delivery and development.

A range of other materials are also collated to demonstrate the young people’s involvement with the project including photographs, exhibition materials, participant blogs and Twitter entries as well as copies of media coverage. 

What are the strengths and challenges? 

The Big ShoutER focuses on the empowerment of young people by building confidence, self esteem and life skills around health related topics to positively influence health change in community settings. The young people have been actively engaged in the design of the project and consultation with local people about the health issues that matter to them. The creative and interactive nature of the project helps the young people to take a youthful and entertaining approach to presenting important information.

The forward thinking nature of the project and effective partnership working between different CHCP and council teams have allowed the project to be a success. The young people, local service providers and statutory agencies have been able to work together to integrate the findings from the community research and consultation into the development of local children’s services planning and health services delivery. The highly regarded staff members managing the group and facilitating the activities, opening doors to service providers and providing support are pivotal in keeping the group working together effectively towards a common goal.

“It’s exciting to be involved in a dynamic young group.”

Working on a small budget was raised as a challenge for the project, and staff have had to work creatively to evidence the impact of the project, particularly for the wider community of young people in East Renfrewshire. However working with young people can be demanding, and a current strength of the project is engagement with a small highly motivated group. At times, slow progress has made it difficult to sustain interest and motivation from the young people, as they plan for the peer education element of the project.

At a personal level, staff expressed pride in being part of the project. Staff also reflected on the willingness and energy of the young people to get involved and to try something new. The staff feel that they have also learnt a lot from the young people.

The young people involved with the project spoke of the self belief, independence and confidence they had gained – they are now able to speak with confidence to a range of audiences which they would have found very difficult before joining the Big ShoutERs. Participants also highlighted the new skills they had developed, their improved family relationships, new friendships they have formed and their ability to portray a more positive image of young people.

Relevant links to other parts of the Understanding Glasgow site:  social capital, mindset, lifestyle, health, children’s safety, children’s lifestyle, children’s wellbeing