What is the Young Researchers Advisory Panel (YRAP), and how does it support research at the University of Bedfordshire’s Safer Young Lives Research Centre?
The YRAP is a collective of young people aged 18-24 who are dedicated to improving services and support for young people affected by sexual violence. We all bring different experiences which means we are experts in knowing what needs to change and develop. We help support the Safer Young Lives Research Centre by utilizing our expertise to inform research to understand and develop responses to harm. Our hope is to create a system where young people are heard, valued, and supported. We aim to better prevent these issues and improve the recovery, response and help young people receive.
Why is youth participation, and leadership, in research about harm in adolescence important? What does good participation look like?
Youth participation is so important as it gives us the opportunity to make an influence on our recovery/the recovery of young people in the future. Our experience makes us experts. It can help us feel in control and valued. Improving responses for other young people, personally, made me feel amazing, even though my previous experiences were awful and the response by professionals was inadequate, at least I now have the power to impact real change.
How did the YRAP support the Securing Safety research? What was different as a result?
The YRAP participated in two focus groups which were held online. The focus groups were facilitated by Lauren from the Contextual Safeguarding research team. We looked at a set of draft interview questions that Lauren had written. These questions were for the Securing Safety Study, which is about when local authorities place young people in placements far away from their homes when they are at risk within their communities. These interview questions were for young people who Lauren went on to interview for the study. We had 3 to 4 members of YRAP within each focus group. We read through the questions for the interview and made suggestions, inputting our opinions about how they could be clearer, more accessible, and sharing ideas about other areas that should be explored to ensure the interview questions were young person friendly.
As a team, and individuals, we inputted our views and ideas. One suggestion was to begin with an open question so that the young person was able to contribute their story to begin with. We also identified that the interview was quite long, and so we suggested that the interview be split into two parts so that young people would stay engaged and not feel overwhelmed. Another idea was to have a warmup and a cool down activity to help the young person to feel safe and connect with the interviewer and to aid them to feel comfortable and to answer honestly.
Furthermore, we helped Lauren to design an activity-based interview using a ‘road map’, ‘traffic light’ and ‘roundabout’, etc. cards on a whiteboard sheet with a road drawn on it so that the interviewees could map out their journey in a young person friendly way. We felt this could help the young person to discuss their experiences more easily and in an accessible way. Members of the YRAP also contributed other ideas for questions that we felt were missing. Another suggestion that we felt was important was changing the wording of questions to avoid them being ‘leading’ questions that might assume something was helpful when it might not have been. Lastly, we suggested that Lauren should incorporate a ‘fidget’ for the interview pack to act as self-regulation tool that helps to increase attention and focus whilst also lowering stress for the interviewees.