Using my creativity and experience to help other young people make informed choices

11 August 2022

CIARA blog picture.pngCiara Waugh is an art and design student who has been working with other young people to co-produce national information materials on the right to continuing care for young people. Here she writes about why this project is so close to her heart.

When I first heard about this project, I jumped at the chance to be involved for two reasons: one, it was about continuing care and I had experience of that; and two, I got to use my passion for art to produce some designs for amazing resources for other young people with care experience. At college, I’m wanting to specialise in illustration, and this project let me dip my toe in the water and say, actually, I really love this type of work.

The lack of knowing about my right to continuing care was quite a battle for me. The conversations happened during COVID-19 and I was told “you have two black and white choices here and need to choose within a week”. I really had to take a step back and get other authorities involved. I may not know my rights fully, but I had a tingling sensation that what I was being told wasn’t right.

I may not have had a good experience of continuing care conversations myself but what I always hold in my heart is that while it didn’t go well for me, I’d love to be able to use my experiences to make that better for someone else in my shoes. So, when I heard about this project, I was immediately on board.

Getting involved

I came into the project when some of the concept and groundwork with young people was already done, particularly around the characters used in a series of different scenarios used to explain continuing care in different care settings, and their back stories, and I’ve been able to take that away and think about details such as what their room looked like – the backgrounds used to tell the stories tell you so much about the character, and I really wanted to capture the environments. I had input into the language used too, so that we were not just saying ‘go see your carer’, we were able to fine-tune the characters and their language appropriately to tell the stories.

This project is so much more than a brochure on a shelf about your right to continuing care: how many people my age are going to look and say “I found this brochure, look how good this is!” This project and all the different formats can enable visual learners to get good information in a way that helps them to understand their rights, helped by the way the stories are laid out and the different scenarios and obstacles portrayed. This isn’t just about young people my age being pushed into a situation by a system, it’s about younger kids as well, people from all aspects of care.

Working with the project team

In the past, I’ve worked with the ‘bigwigs’ in organisations, but for this project it wasn’t like that, as I was an integral part of the team. This was a live brief that was mine to own, and I felt like I was a professional with others working alongside me. As a young student that was an amazing opportunity for me to get experience early on in my career, and I’ve honestly never had such a nice group to work with; our meetings felt like coffee mornings, and we’ve all become really good friends!

The whole project and process was made really easy for the group. Yes, there were challenges, as the group was trying to make the project inclusive to everyone. Also, because I didn’t have a good experience of continuing care, I was careful not to bring things down. I was trying to keep an open mind and not focus on the bad. I am sure it’s working well in some ways and for some young people, but how can we fill in the holes until the system can get patched up? I hope I'm not tooting my own horn here, but I truly believe that these resources will be a brilliant step towards the future of the system and I'm honoured that I was able to steer the direction of this project.

Information to support young people

Continuing care is not as black and white as it seems, and the beauty of these materials is that there are so many different scenarios that we covered and it’s all about finding the right person to speak to. This is such a helpful resource to have, and if these had been in place for me, I may have thought ‘I’m not the only person in the world with this problem, there’s others like me as well’, instead of feeling I was the only one fighting this battle. There is so much help out there and many young people have gone through this before you - it is knowing who to turn to. Hopefully, it will open up conversations, and that can only be good for everyone.

If I could give young people one piece of advice it would be to try and stand up for yourself. I’ve learned to stand on my own two feet. Use these materials, and if your carer says something you don’t like or understand, then say you will take it into consideration - but also get a second opinion.

I had to mature way too early, so do whatever makes you happy. Throughout any hardships I’ve encountered, I’ve always turned to art, and look where that has led me! I’ve used my passion for art to help other people in the long-term and that makes me feel amazing.

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