Natalia Wealleans-Turner, who was previously a youth worker at the Brathay Trust, helped set up the Young Health Champions Scheme in Barrow and describes how local young people are developing the confidence and skills to act as peer mentors and deliver positive health messages to other young people.
It was a proud moment when young people taking part in Barrow’s Young Health Champions course (YHC) were invited to meet HRH Princess Anne to discuss their course and their roles as peer mentors.
The Young Health Champions course (YHC) is a Level 2 qualification which CAPs across the UK are delivering to young people between the ages of 12 and 25, giving them the skills and knowledge to deliver positive health messages to other young people.
In Barrow the CAP funded 10 places on the first ever YHC course in Cumbria, working with key youth work partners and educational providers The Brathay Trust, Dropzone and Moorfield Learning Centre to identify young people from alternative learning environments who would benefit from the course, and could then support their peers to increase health and well-being through planned activities and events in schools, youth clubs and The Hub, a one-stop shop for young people in Barrow.
The partners worked together to develop the 12 week programme, holding an open day inviting young people and staff from across a variety of organisations to come and find out about this exciting opportunity. They then recruited a small group of young people who they felt would especially benefit from acquiring an accredited qualification and from working as YHC to develop their communication skills, confidence and self- esteem. The young people studied four units including the Alcohol Awareness unit and worked to develop a health improvement message.
This message centred around improving the response of practitioners and professionals to transgender young people and the issues they face, in the hope of reducing the impact that poor practice has on the mental and emotional health of transgender young people, which may lead to increased alcohol use as an attempt to cope. The young champions held a number of public events where they presented their health improvement message, which was very well received by all. Feedback indicated that the professionals present really benefitted from the YHC’s insight and advice.
The YHC enjoyed their programme and completed a portfolio of their work - each YHC had the opportunity to develop their communication and research skills and build their self esteem and confidence and knowledge. The partners valued working together and hope this pilot leads to further funding to ensure the delivery of more YHC programmes in the Barrow area to help tackle underage drinking through YHC peer support.