A Young Reporters view on our Policy Seminar on ACEs

Alice Ferguson, MSYP, joined our most recent policy seminar on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as a Young Reporter. Take a look at her blog to find out what happened at the event and hear more about what our speakers had to say.

A young reporter stands next to a YouthLink Scotland banner

Attending the YouthLink Policy Seminar on ACEs was a fantastic opportunity. I attended as a Young Reporter for YouthLink, as well as Convenor of the Health and Wellbeing Committee at SYP, so the day was really very fascinating!

After a quick morning coffee, I was fuelled and ready to head to the seminar. The venue (Studio, Glasgow) was fantastic – the beautiful, scenic views over the Glasgow skyline entertained me all day!

I had a chance to introduce myself to some of the delegates prior to the seminar. I spoke to Susan Hunter, the Policy and Research Officer at YouthLink. Susan informed me of her role, the idea behind the day, and also told me about the day ahead. The day was designed because the team at YouthLink felt that it was a great opportunity to connect with other organisations and youth workers who could ‘add to the story’ in regards to the hot topics the policy team at YouthLink had discussed.

I also met with Lauren Plüss, the Senior Digital & Comms Officer at YouthLink. Lauren guided me through my role and supported me throughout, the day which was a lifesaver. Thanks again, Lauren!

The seminar started around 10 am, where Emmie Maine, Chair, gave her opening remarks. Emmie gave a really powerful speech about her own experience with ACEs and how it was because of youth work, that she is where she is. Emmie highlighted how her youth workers had listened, understood and signposted her, and that they were always just a ‘phone call or text away’.

Mary Glasgow, acting chief of Children 1st, continued with an address about ACEs in Scotland. Mary highlighted how it is not what you do in youth work, it is how you are with people. The idea of relationships being the core value of youth work and the core solution to ACEs was stressed throughout the day after Mary used the story of her mum, Betty Glasgow, a dearly loved youth worker and how she touched so so many lives. Her advice was “be there for them and love them”.

Director of Together, Juliet Harris, spoke about the human rights-based approach we should be taking to ensure young people can find the support that they need. Juliet underlined that young people quite often see that ‘rights are out of reach’ when really they aren’t, and that they can provide young people with happiness, love and understanding. Making the UNCRC binding, and not just guiding, in Scots law and taking a rights-based approach gives children and young people the power to know what is wrong.

Over break, I gathered some content for my Twitter Takeover! I played a game with some of the speakers and delegates called ‘3,2,1 minute challenge’. The idea was that they had 30 seconds to answer the questions of ‘why are you here?’, then 20 to answer ‘in an ideal world what should be done in regards to ACEs?’ and lastly 10 seconds to answer ‘what are you going to do today, tomorrow and the next day to ensure that children and young people feel supported’. It was lovely to film a quick clip with them (make sure to check the twitter page!) but it was also great to extend our conversations afterwards, where I asked some further questions.

Table discussions were had whilst I was preparing for my takeover, I heard some great snippets of discussion, and then it was lunch!

Over lunch (after eating my chicken casserole and of course, cake) I chatted to some more people and kept the Twitter updated. I had a fantastic discussion with Juliet where we discussed the difference between ACEs in refugees and asylum seekers vs children born in Scotland. We came to the conclusion that ‘by counting ACEs we aren’t painting a picture of a child’s life’. ACEs are categorised through a ‘checklist’ and for some reason moving across multiple countries, fleeing from war zones and having a constant feeling of ‘am I staying in this country? Am I welcome here?’ does not count as an ACE. Different experiences affect different people in different ways, generalising what an ACE is, is not helpful.

After lunch, the panel Q&A session opened up, where Nina Vaswani, John Loughton, Emmie Maine, Juliet Harris and Tila Morris answered some audience questions and spoke a bit more themselves. It was a great opportunity for the delegates to ask some burning questions, and also great for listeners (like me!) to learn a bit more about ACEs and youth work. John gave an incredibly moving, beautiful poem on his own experiences. That was one of the highlights of my day. It demonstrated the passion and emotions which youth work can engender.

The final speaker, Dr Ross Whitehead, addressed the role of trusted adults in developing resilience. I enjoyed hearing about the work he and his teams are doing within the NHS Health Scotland.

There was more chance for networking and collaboration at the end of the day. I took this chance to update the Twitter and reflect on how much I have learned (which was a lot!). I really, really look forward to YouthLink continuing with the Policy Seminar series as well as opening this opportunity to other young people. Hopefully, this will inspire other organisations to do the same!

I look forward to seeing the ACTION everyone takes after discussing the vast number of things we could be doing to support children and young people with ACEs. I know I certainly will take away the importance of a human rights-based approach and the importance of a loving and caring relationship, and thus the importance of youth work.

Watch Alice’s video about her experience below.