The Care Inspectorate is taking an innovative approach to assessing the quality of care for young people in Scotland. Here we speak to two Young Inspection Volunteers about their groundbreaking role
When Toni Twigg, 20, strikes up a conversation with a young person in a care setting her infectious smile and broad ‘fae Glasgow’ accent always gets a reaction… and people just want to talk to her. Raysa Momboka, 23, on the other hand, uses her listening skills and gentle empathy to encourage young people to open up to her.
These two remarkable young women are part of the Care Inspectorate’s Young Inspection Volunteers (YIV) team and an important component in assessing the quality of care for young people in Scotland.
Like the others in the 13-strong YIV team, Toni and Raysa have benefited from care services themselves in the past, and they draw on their personal experiences to give the Care Inspectors who accompany them on inspections valuable insight into how young people feel about how they are cared for in each service.
This innovative approach has attracted international interest from other social care regulators, and Toni and Raysa have joined the Care Inspectorate’s senior managers in hosting meetings with representatives from Sweden, the Netherlands and Malta recently.
Raysa said: “The visitors were interested in finding out more about the role of YIVs and the training and support we receive to enable us to help with formal inspections.”
Raysa has a background of campaigning for people’s rights through her work with the National Deaf Children’s Society and has been volunteering with the Care Inspectorate for the past two years. She fits in four-to-five inspections a year while studying social care at college, after which she hopes to study a degree in nursing and midwifery.
Toni had a disrupted childhood as she moved family home often and that affected her schooling. However, in recent years she has settled down with her partner and young son, and with the support of agencies such as Move On she has gained new qualifications. It was three years ago, while studying with Move On and developing her interest in youth work that she was asked to join the Care Inspectorate as a YIV.
So what makes a good YIV? Raysa said: “You have to be very observant and have good understanding of what is happening, particularly around the context of the conversations you are having with a young person.”
Toni added: “It’s really important that you are non-judgmental. A lot of people think young people in care are always in trouble, but this is not the case – it’s just a lazy stereotype people have which makes me angry.”
The biggest skill is getting young people to talk in the first place, as Raysa explained: “It’s so important that we encourage people to open up – to help them understand that someone wants to listen to their views and that these views are valued… and also to talk about things to get the weight off their shoulders.
“Some people are worried that what they say to us will count against them but we make it absolutely clear that their comments are not attributed to them and remain totally anonymous.”
Toni added: “Some people just don’t want to talk at first, so it’s always good to break the ice with non inspection related chat, but it’s important to keep your boundaries and be professional. Although we can’t divulge any personal information about ourselves we can let them know that we have been in their situation in general terms and try to strike up a rapport that way.”
Although YIVs are highly trained the role can take an emotional toll sometimes, particularly when they hear about other young people’s personal experiences, which have the potential to bring back uncomfortable memories of their own.
Toni explained: “We all have our different triggers, but it could be hearing about something traumatic or upsetting that happened to a young person in their childhood and you think about your own experiences. This can stay in your head after the inspection and be disturbing for a long time. That’s why we always get support after the inspections and we also have a peer support group as well so we can support each other if we need it.
“We also get together for training about four times a year and this is a good time to raise issues – and it’s great fun too; we are like the Care Inspectorate family!”
So with Raysa studying hard at college and Toni as a busy full-time mum with her own studies, why do they give up their precious spare time to volunteer to help the Care Inspectorate?
“Well, one thing we don’t do it for is money, as we don’t get paid”, laughed Toni. “We do it because we care about what happens to young people. We know what it feels like to use care services and we want to make a difference, so young people can get the best care possible.”