As charity Peer Power marked its sixth year of providing children and young people with health and wellbeing support at a House of Lords reception in June, it shared an important message for youth sector services dealing with trauma.
Driven by her personal experience, Anne-Marie Douglas set up Peer Power in 2016. The organisation supports children and young people who have experienced significant trauma and adversity by using an empathy-focused approach to build trust, foster supportive and consistent relationships, and empower children to speak out. By helping each other become leaders at Peer Power, young people influence policy and guide transformation in local services.
At the event, Peer Power presented The Empathy Report which explores the application of empathy in children’s services setting out why it’s important that youth services dealing with trauma are delivered by people with lived experience.
18-year-old, Rico Thai-Richards from Waltham Forest, has been supported by Peer Power since April 2021. Now a Peer Power Expert, Rico spoke about his experience:
“Before I came to Peer Power, I had no faith in myself or others. Where I come from it’s every man for himself. People told me that I couldn’t do anything. Peer Power believed in me. I did not trust the police, health or NHS, now I see that they are all people trying their best and are working with us to create change.
“I have met people from all walks of life and feel what ambition and success is like. Peer Power helped me develop how I speak in public and gain confidence. I secured the roles of Youth Mayor and Deputy Chair of the London Youth Assembly and got involved in local and national politics. I have been afforded to work with incredible originations such as Project Zero, The London Recovery Board and YIAG (Youth Independent Advisory Group). I hope I can now help other young people make change.
“My plan for the future is helping people from all ethnic backgrounds, no matter what religion you believe in no matter what disability you have people are people.”
Another Young Person supported by Peer Power said:
“They say that in unfortunate circumstances you meet the best people and I wholeheartedly say this is true. Anne-Marie saw something in me that I hadn’t seen in myself. Peer Power has been there for me through good times and bad. It has helped me to be my best self.”
Hosting the event for 60 guests was Baroness Usha Prashar who spoke to the eight young Peer Power Experts celebrating the charity’s achievements since it was launched at the House of Lords six years ago.
The charity’s Chair, Dame Lorna Boreland-Kelly, explained how Peer Power has gone from strength to strength, connecting with more than 500 young people, with 92% going into education, training or employment within six months. It has delivered workshops, training and coaching to over 5000 professionals, partnering with organisations such as NHSEI London, Ministry of Justice, Youth Justice Board, HM Inspectorate of Probation, and a range of youth charities. Since 2016, peer power has grown from a staff of 2 to a team of 20, and its patrons include Lord McNally, author Simonetta Hornby and Baroness Usha Prashar.
Anne-Marie Douglas, Founder and CEO of Peer Power, said:
“Now more than ever, young people need to be heard. Peer Power is here to harness the potential of young people who have suffered trauma, neglect, abuse and crime by providing support, building trusting relationships, and helping services improve. By instilling empathy, listening and taking real action, we can tackle ongoing institutional abuses of children in our care. We are proud of what we have achieved, but it does not stop. We must learn to demonstrate empathy more as a society and empower people to have a voice.
“It was an evening of gratitude to all those involved in Peer Power’s success to date. I was moved by the stories from young people as to how Peer Power had impacted their lives and would like to thank them also for all they do to create system change for their peers as young leaders and positive role models.”
To find out more, please visit: www.peerpower.org.uk facebook.com/peerpoweruk, twitter.com/@peer_poweruk.