Amplifying the voice of care experienced young people in data research: Reflections on a pilot internship scheme
As part of a wider project to co-produce data research with care experienced young people, Administrative Data Research Centre Northern Ireland (ADRC NI) recently offered a summer internship for the position of Research and Communications Assistant. As an expert by lived experience, the intern’s role was to help develop a dissemination strategy and materials for research around children known to social services. In this blog, we hear directly from the successful applicant, Rhianna Brown, on how she found the internship experience.
As a young person with care experience, I have done a lot of work in reshaping the way that young people with care experience are treated and spoken to by professionals. I am a Young Representative for Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) and part of the Data Research Advisers Group organised by researchers from Queens’ University Belfast.
As Data Advisers we have regular workshops to look at how our data is used, and we decide what research questions we can ask to try and make things better for young people in the future. I only went along to the first workshop because VOYPIC staff persuaded me to! But it turned out to be a good thing to get involved in. I’ve enjoyed learning new things about research and how to use administrative data to try and make things better for children and young people, and help with their mental wellbeing.
Applying for the internship
When I heard about the internship I wanted to apply because I felt I could present research findings and design social media posts and flyers and in a way that is more appealing to young people.
To be honest, applying was the hardest part. The job advert used formal language and made the job sound more difficult than it was. The online application system was complicated. I needed all the right documents like a passport that was in date, as well as the website being outdated and hard to navigate. But I got support from VOYPIC staff to apply, and it was worth it.
I knew I could help young people understand how data research works, that young people can do the jobs that the adults do, and that young people can make their mark and have their voices heard.
Making research accessible to young people
The highlight for me was writing a young person’s version of a research paper and seeing it published. When I first saw the full paper, I thought no young person will ever read that! It felt good doing a version that young people can understand that’s written to suit their reading skills. Young people are the best ones to write stuff for them, so it’s great that there is now a paper written by a young person in this field of work.
My work means other young people can also learn more on how their data is collected and stored, as well as how it is used to write up reports on serious things like mental ill-health and the rates of hospital admissions. I hope if young people read my paper they know that they are not alone and there is help out there for them.
I also re-designed the original flyer to recruit members to the Data Research Advisers Group. The original had too much information and it didn't go down too well with the young people. It sounded so boring. But it was good to make a new flyer that will help bring more young people into the workshops and shape research.
Our voice matters
If research uses our data, then young people should have a say in the research. I think that all organisations doing administrative data research should make sure this happens and have a young person on their team to make sure that young people are reading the reports about them.
The internship was supported by Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) and funded by the Widening Participation Unit, Queen’s University Belfast.