Legal highs, self-harm and bullying all came under the spotlight when young students across Cheshire East revealed they want to see greater protection and support for their vulnerable peers.
A recent survey, The Cheshire East Good Childhood Report 2014, suggests one in 10 young people in Cheshire East suffers low self-esteem and confidence.
Pupils from seven schools in the Borough shared their thoughts and ideas with professionals from Cheshire East Council, the police, health trusts and other partner agencies at a one-day conference at Wychwood Park, near Crewe, organised by Cheshire East Local Safeguarding Children Board, held to discuss safeguarding and protection of young people.
Speakers challenged the professionals to view the problem from their point of view instead of through adult eyes and standard processes.
The message from the conference paralleled the call from Cheshire East Council Leader Councillor Michael Jones that there needs to be far more early intervention work to tackle the growing problem of self-harm, bullying and drug abuse.
And more worrying is the discovery that the Borough has a higher than average number of hospital admissions due to self-harming.
Cllr Jones said: “There will be many reasons for this and young people say that it is important that the focus should be on ‘why’ rather than the act itself.
“I want to see my authority and our partners tackling the causes – not just the symptoms.
“The mental health and emotional wellbeing of children and young people is vitally important to both a good experience of childhood and in determining long-term health into adulthood.
“Early help is critical. Over half of all adults with mental health problems tend to be diagnosed in childhood.
“Young people should be enjoying their childhood and shaping their future not harbouring dark thoughts of self harm or even suicide.”
Ian Rush, chairman of the Cheshire East Local Safeguarding Children Board said: “This was not a conference where the adults held the stage.
“It was about young people from all schools across Cheshire East telling us what they are doing, what they are worried about and how they are solving some of these problems themselves.”
Joe McBride, from Cheshire East Youth Council, said: “I think it’s really important that the Youth Council attends events like this because there will always be young people who want to have their voices heard.
“This is an opportunity for us to listen to their views, so we can tailor the work that we do to meet their needs.”
Cllr Rachel Bailey, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of children and families, said: “The engagement with schools and young people is phenomenal and the messages have focussed on their concerns and how they can feel safer and better looked after.
“Our work from the conference doesn’t stop here. The message now needs to go back to all schools, through assemblies, through parents’ evenings and beyond.
“I am absolutely delighted that the safeguarding board has sponsored the event, which brought together all agencies – health, police, fire, probation and education.
“We know that Cheshire East is the best place to live in the North West. We know our economy is strong and we know that we need to enable young people to be part of that success.”
You can view a short film of the event by following this link: https://vimeo.com/132531708
Participating schools included: Brine Leas (Nantwich), St John’s Wood (Knutsford), Shavington High School, Poynton High School, Adelaide School (Crewe), Middlewich High School and Eaton Bank (Congleton.)