Change that leads to better lives

Changing approaches to rebuild our connections

Reflections from Associate Jackie Claxon-Ruddock on her work on the Time to Talk Next Steps project, supporting young people with additional needs to realise their aspirations and provide space and time to talk.

Blog Jackie Claxon Ruddock 01

I work with a team of four supporters for young people at NDTi. We provide a safe online space and dedicated time for young people from across England to chat about whatever topics they choose, think about how to improve their wellbeing, raise their self-confidence, create goals and enable them to pursue their aspirations.

I adapt support for each person to explore their goals and options to improve their individual situation. All support is delivered virtually by a medium chosen by the young person; this could be via WhatsApp, Zoom, Telegram App or Phone Calls. It has been immensely rewarding to hear what steps have helped improve young people’s lives and in many cases this has also helped their parents and carers or the professionals who have signposted them to us.

Having worked on the original pilot for this programme and continuing on the longer 3-year project Time To Talk Next Steps, I have seen how young people’s needs have changed post lockdown. Young people appear to have much higher, levels of social emotional needs, leading to high levels of anxiety.

In following government social distancing guidelines many young people who were already isolated have become really cut off. They have lost confidence and motivation to try anything new. They can spend hours in their rooms without interacting with anyone else.

Our work helps encourage them to develop their plans and make connections. However, this can seem like a contradiction for them when the messages in the news are all about staying in and isolating.

I can certainly empathise with young people who are torn between being compliant - not breaking any rules and trying to overcome their social anxieties.

It still amazes me to hear about the worries and concerns that young people with additional needs face and their lived experience of not being heard or having the opportunities to pursue their chosen dreams.

I have supported young people to realise that they do not necessarily have to go down an academic route to be successful. One young person decided not to go to university, instead they followed a vocational route and enrolled for a City and Guilds qualification at a local provider. Many increase their confidence to speak out and join in more within their education settings. One young person told me that having got more confident they could now raise their hand and answer questions in class.

It is particularly rewarding to relay to professionals a young person’s interpretation of what they would like, which sometimes differs to what the professional had thought.

Recently, a careers advisor had informed a young person of a smaller setting, as they thought this would have been more suitable because the young person had not been around people for a number of years due to anxiety. The young person misunderstood the careers advisor’s intentions of finding a smaller setting for them, as the young person had felt the careers advisor had only given this advice due to them having more complex needs. However, this was not the careers advisor’s intention. In speaking with the professional, I was able to help them both understand each other’s thought process.

In this way we enable professionals to change their approach with a young people, which can lead to much more positive relationships.

All the young people I have worked with have said that they now feel more confident in making friends, going out and even recognising their own skills, which they can use in different situations.

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery the Time to Talk Next Steps programme continues to improve outcomes, particularly, for those young people who, before the pandemic, may have already been experiencing multiple complexities. I look forward to continuing my role in supporting even more young people to shine.

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Jackie Claxton-Ruddock

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