SWEET! which stands for Services We Experience in Essex Today provides a snapshot of the lived experience of young people accessing health and social care services in recognised areas of deprivation. The two reports to date have allowed us to identify trends and similarities in lived experience across the county, as well as building an understanding of health and social care areas for young people in each area. They have both had local and national impact:
The first Sweet!, was used to inform the Essex Health Oversight and Scrutiny Committee’s task and finish group, the Suicide and Self harm Prevention Working Group and the ‘Open Up, Reach Out’ young people’s mental health transformation plan.
The second in the trilogy, concentrates on a similar group in Jaywick, the north-east of the county, which is consistently named the most deprived area in England. Healthwatch Essex’s engagement team partnered with Tendring Enterprise Studio School (TESS) whose students included those who had been absent for many parts of their schooling. Many had been excluded from mainstream education or had left their previous schools due to issues such as bullying; as well as young people from other seldom heard groups such as gypsy, traveller and Roma communities, and also young carers.
Recommendations in Sweet!2 included;
- Embed lived experience of young people into all co-production and transformation work for local services they use.
- The need for multi-agency teams within services that can provide expertise or experience across a range of issues so there is access to and awareness of a variety of social and health care information.
- Establishing trust through a continuity of care and healthcare professionals.
“It has been so exciting to see how the health and social care landscape in Essex has received these young voices. Some of the highlights have been feeding into the government’s recent Mental Health Green Paper, Essex Police’s Victim Needs Assessment work and several workstreams at Essex County Council” explains Hannah Fletcher, Engagement Officer.
“The standout for me has been the inclusion of this work into parliamentary committees. That the voices of young people from seldom heard groups, living in what is most consistently described as the area of highest deprivation in England, has reached those in parliament shows the power of lived experience!”