Episode 28…. The last one.
Where do I start…
There once was a girl, and they called her Blondy. Everyone called her Blondy …. It was like they had forgotten her real name. The real her.
Blondy, like many children and young people in the UK (And the world) was failed by the very people that should have kept her safe. She was failed on every level possible and countless opportunities to stop her abuse and exploitation were missed, ignored or not recognised.
She suffered in many ways. Ways that would keep you up at night. She was rejected by many. She is the smelly kid you moved away from. She is the child that you would not want your child to play with. She steals and lies…for sure. She “Corrupts others” and “puts them in danger”.
She is a disappoint
Well that’s what they tell her. That’s what they show her. And just like all the other “Blondy’s” out here…. right now, she feels like no one is listening to her.
There once was a girl called Blondy, and she was scared. She was scared of losing people, of being hurt. She was scared of going hungry, of her mum being unwell. She was scared of people that came in her home and she was scared that no one could hear her. Because she tried to tell people…show people…. but it came out all wrong and then she was kicked out the lesson, out of groups. She was sure they could not hear her. SO many young people today say the same thing…… That adults don’t listen to them, To what they need. Many young people say that professionals offer them help and support and then try and box them into a category, where they can be matched with the (Limited) help available ….
So, what has this all be about?
Blondy’s people has been in my mind for a very long time. But I never had the time or energy to do anything about it. Lock down arrived and I found myself, as many did, having to look at myself in a way I had not before, and at first…and I will be honest…I struggled.
I had many things in me that I had forgotten (Or wanted to forget) where there and “Blondy”…. She was at the forefront of my mind. The fear that I felt when lockdown started and I could not get the food I needed for my daughter and could not be with my sons….It took me back to other times when I had felt fear like that.
SO I decided that I could either lay down and cry (I may have done that for a hot second) or I could use this time to try and make a change.
Blondy’s people is a model. It is similar to many models that have been tried before. Its similar to the current adolescent risk management (ARM) panel that exist in many areas now, where, When children/ Young people have been identified as vulnerable (I would argue that all children are vulnerable) and at high risk of significant harm (this can be that they are at risk or they are a risk to others) The ARM panel try to offer a flexible and holistic, multie agency response to support these young people . These panels usually consist of:
The young persona and their family
Drug and Alcohol services
Children and adolescent mental health services (CAHMS)
Specialist children’s services
Missing persons team
That’s just an example but you get what I mean. Sounds good…. Doesn’t it…. All these services around one young person to support them
But… and this question is more for professionals than anyone else…. How often do all these people actually come together? These people will usually have a full-time role and will attend these meeting to either offer support or advice in respect of their speciality. What is the outcome from these meetings? How many Trusts/companies come to these panels stating that they have the answer…that they can work with these children and young people and turn it all around and a year later…. nothing has changed.
But where is the person with the lived experience? The SEN intervention? The church?
People are already overstretched in their roles and they come together for these meetings and feel the pressure even more.
So, what if we made the team bigger and more fluid. Because I know for Blondy, the people listed above would not have been enough for her. And she would have needed the different interventions staggered….. I know I know…. Your thinking budgets and funding….. How…. When…what would be the impact. I don’t have all those answers just yet. But let me break it down.
I got a piece of paper and I started to write all the different things that Blondy would have needed help with between the ages of 13 and 15. The interventions that may have worked. The people that could have impacted. And I was left with 27 people. I could have had more but as a core that’s what I had. I wrote each name out and what the impact would have been.
Now…Blondy didn’t need all 27 at the same time. She would have needed them at different stages…. Like when they use variable speed limits on a motorway….But if these people had been available to her, my life would have been very different.
By having a vast amount of people on a panel, from so many different backgrounds, a bespoke plan can be created with the child or young person. A menu, if you will, that can be adjusted. This would be overseen by a team of coordinators of course. But they would be looking from a holistic view about what was needed from a social services referral to moving a child out of the area. This kind of practice does take place in many areas, I have seen it. But not in the way I think it needs to be done. People are saying things like “We use contextual safeguarding” when no one is using contextual safeguarding ….people are trying to apply it…but its still a work in progress. Professionals are too scared to say …actually…you know what…we are not helping our children and young people in the way we want to…. we need support.
Anyway…we could be here all day…. But I wanted to give you a overview.
Each person was chosen for Blondy’s person purposely and with intent. I needed “real” people. People that you, the viewers, could laugh with, cry with….shout at your screen with. These are the people that should be on such panels. I mean not these EXACT people…. But people like them.
The fact is, if we want to stop criminalising our children and start fighting back against things like county lines, it is going to take more than what is currently on offer. It takes a village to raise a child. Our children are complex and what is happening to many of them is complex, so it makes sense that we need a complex matrix to support them. Different people from different people weaved together to make a safety net for a child. So, no matter which way they fall there is someone there for them and their families.
Thank you to all of Blondy’s people and I am not just talking about those in the videos. I am taking about the people that have helped me in life, supported me, not judged me. Are you one of Blondy’s people… yes you reading this? I think you will know if you are or not.
There is also another side of Blondy’s people that I didn’t realise when I was creating it. You see…. Rom the firs video with Naomi Donald to the last interview with George I have been on my own journey. One I didn’t even know I needed to.
With each interview I have put to bed another demon that has hunted me. With each interview “Blondy” has stepped out of the shadows a little more, a place she has stood for a long time. And now she is here. With me. Is me.
I was a child. I was vulnerable from birth and that was exploited in the worst possible ways. But I spent a long time, like many young people do, blaming mainly one person…. myself.
And I don’t anymore. I love Blondy and everything about her.
She feels safe…. because I crated a army of people just for her…. To keep her safe…. They are Blondys people.
All I ask is that you consider this… Do you have a army like Blondy’s people in your area? Do you need one? Would you be willing to be part of one?
I hope you enjoy this last video and listen to the words.
Now if you will excuse me for a while… I have a dissertation to write because little old Blondy, the smelly kid, the one no one wanted to let their kids play with…she’s is one dissertation away from a master’s in advanced child protection….. so she can make sure that people don’t ignore her when she speaks out about a child suffering ever again…. And she has one question for you all….. CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW!
You can access Blondy’s People videos on my website here: www.outofthe-shadows.co.uk/blondys-people