Neil Shashoua, our Business Development Manager, reports back from the project’s first action planning meeting with a partner of the Consortium’s Blue Stone Rights Project
The Consortium is all about bringing people together to do something good and this week saw a milestone in our Baring Foundation funded Blue Stone Rights Project. The project is a collaboration of Consortium members to share expertise, enthusiasm and ideas to introduce ways in which our members can introduce, develop, monitor and sustain legal and human rights approaches that improve the outcomes for their beneficiaries. The project works with organisations to answer the question ‘could the people we work with get a better deal if we highlighted that they have human rights?’.
In the current policy climate of austerity, the voluntary and community sector is increasingly seeing the downgrading of people’s ‘needs’ (which have more leverage in being supported through the public purse) to ‘wants’ (which don’t). Needs are contestable; rights are not. They are enshrined in law and have international standing.
The project’s funding has enabled us to bring in Newcastle Law Centre (also one of our members) to work with nine organisations to help them identify the issues their beneficiaries face that could be helped using a legal and human rights approach.
The first phase of the project has been the Law Centre leading a workshop for the staff of each of the nine partners; to date they have delivered five; with Newcastle YMCA, Newcastle Carers, Skills for People, Streetwise and Children North East. We’ve evaluated all five and been pleased that staff have told us how much they have learned about human rights and how they think it could improve their work with the people they support.
This week we held the first post-workshop meeting, with Streetwise, to look at which ideas coming out the workshop did organisations want to implement. Streetwise provides young people aged 13-25 with free and confidential advice, counselling, sexual health and support services from its based in Newcastle city centre and on the streets. They see around 6,000 young people every year.
Having already looked at their publicity material and website I could see that the organisation was big on defending young people’s rights so how could the Blue Stone Rights Project add value to their existing work?
Michael Fawole (Director, Newcastle Law Centre), Mandy Coppin (Chief Executive Officer of Streetwise) and I met in Streetwise’s waiting area (soon to be trendy coffee bar) to review the ideas of Streetwise’s 18 staff who’d taken part in the workshop.
The evaluation of the workshop showed that staff found the workshop useful in raising their awareness of human rights and informing them of the detail of those rights but Mandy told us that the workshop had made a difference in another way. It had helped staff remind themselves of what Streetwise is all about and why they chose to work for the organisation and with young people. In the day to day hurly-burly of the job, there isn’t always time to do that.
She and Michael then set about coming up with loads of actions sparked off by ideas, suggestions and thoughts discussed in the workshop; from making a display about human rights on the notice board, to writing applications for funding to include a human rights approach, to including a question about whether young people feel they know more about their rights on the Streetwise feedback form. All practical and based on how the organisation works with young people.
The actions fell within two categories
- Delivery – changing the way a service is delivered, the content of the service and/or designing a service to promote/enhance/improve that service’s upholding of the rights of young people
- Strategic – eg influencing other services/professionals/funders to adopt a rights based approach re young people
We worked out how best to monitor the difference these actions made and who would do what.
It was a great start to this next phase of the project and we’ll keep you in the loop about the successes and challenges we come across.
For more information on Streetwise, go to https://www.streetwisenorth.org.uk/