Lincolnshire Young Voices

Life after Lincolnshire Young voices

A joint statement by the previous co-chairs

Did you know that only 53.7% of working-age disabled people are in employment, in comparison to 82.7% of nondisabled people?  This statistic alone shows us that more needs to be done to help people who identify as having a disability find employment, be given a sense of purpose, and to feel heard and valued. As former co-chairs of Lincolnshire Young Voices (LYV), we’re here to share how leading the pan-disability participation committee did just that and how the platform has continued to create opportunities for us.

If you’ve followed LYV since its inception in 2018, you’ll know that the group was set up to enable children and young people with SEND to influence positive change within service delivery across the county and beyond. As a committee, we felt there was no better way to do this than to be led by those who have lived experience of disability. This not only lent itself to the authentic and powerful voice of the group, but it crucially gave two people the chance to be in paid employment, develop their skillset and grow in confidence. The idea was that by making these contracts fixed term, it would allow the chairs to find their feet, flourish and carve a career path, so that other young people could then step into the role and continue to build upon these foundations. 

Well, it’s safe to say that we (Emma and Jo) had a hard time finding our feet. As wheelchair users, we prefer to roll our way through life, but in February 2020 we began to put our stamp on LYV – a group that we already loved being members of. We started off as we meant to go on: enthusiastically preparing for LYV world domination. As with any game-changing plan, though, sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board, and the pandemic certainly made us do that. The committee has always embodied togetherness. Together our voices make a difference throughout the work we do so passionately, but perhaps more importantly, with the friendships and connections we’ve made by belonging to the group. So, amidst the questionable hair dos and toilet roll crisis, we became even more determined to amplify and empower the voices of CYP.

Within a state of flux, we successfully managed to:

  • develop an award-winning online training resource which debunks myths for professionals communicating with disabled people
  • connect and collaborate with a plethora of services across multiple sectors
  • complete many of the priorities that centred around propelling the voice of our committee and other CYP on a local and national level
  •  keep our grey hairs at bay.

As they say, it wasn’t bad for a day’s work. The skills and opportunities that LYV has given us are too many to mention, but without a doubt being the recognised and reputable faces of CYP on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council and NHS Lincolnshire, set the foundations for our present-day success. 

As the dynamic duo, our talents have fallen somewhere in the realms of being able to share our lived experience with a candid (somewhat cheeky) charm whilst keeping our jobs intact. We pride ourselves on being the conduit between the voices of our community and the professionals who make strategic decisions. We have always said we have winged our way into such opportunities and made space for ourselves at the table, but this couldn’t have been done without the confidence gained from our time at LYV. 

Before handing the baton to LYV’s Nandi and Alfie, we were offered the roles of young researchers on a project lead by the University of Derby (UoD) and funded by East Midlands Children's Directorate via the SDSA. Alongside other young researchers from Rutland local authority, we get to co-research and co-produce the project which spans across the East Midlands to shed light upon whether CYP are getting what they want and need out of their EHC plans and SEND support. The reach of the project is rapidly gaining more traction and is grabbing the attention of professionals who can make a difference. In addition to this, Jo is also a research administrator for the UoD on a DfE funded project which focuses on action research and lesson study for educators working within the SEND and inclusion arena. 

Outside of their collective plot for world domination, Emma utilises her advocacy skills as a speak out leader for VoiceAbility, acting as a voice for people of all ages who have a learning disability, their families and carers. Furthermore, Jo is a programme advisor for The Nora Project, a nonprofit organisation based in Chicago, whose mission is to create disability inclusion informed social emotional learning curriculum.

We’re not trying to blow our own trumpet, but we really do think we are on upward career trajectories. We love what we do and strive for more disabled people to be given the chance to thrive in employment. We’ll forever be grateful for LYV for this, and it brings us joy to watch the chairs and the committee as a whole, go from strength to strength.

By Jo and Emma