Back in 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new group was founded in Neath Port Talbot. Its aim was to bring together girls with experience of being in care to talk about issues that matter to them.
The girls’ rights group, named Hope, was established by Darren Bartley, the Engagement & Participation Officer for Children’s Services in Neath Port Talbot Council, and since its inception in 2020, its membership has been steadily growing.
Members credit it as being a place to talk and relax, meet new people who have been through similar experiences, and build their confidence.
“Currently the group consists of around 15 girls aged between the ages of 11 and 18 who are all care experienced,” says the director of Neath Port Talbot Children’s Rights Unit, Jannine Smith.
“The initial aim of the group was to meet on a regular basis and give the girls opportunity to meet each other, to champion girls’ rights and have their voices heard on issues that are important to them, whether that be in relation to their experiences of care, or in relation to general issues.
“They are given opportunities to share their experiences of being in care, give their views and be heard on issues that are important to them, as well as make changes to service provision. The group and have also highlighted general issues that girls face that they would like to champion. These include period dignity and the right to exercise safely.”
For the ‘period dignity’ social action element of Hope’s work, the girls have created a flyer and animation for foster carers which highlights the need for the provision of basic toiletries for all girls coming into care.
The group are also given plenty of opportunities to try something new and get involved in fun activities that aim to build their confidence and self-esteem, ensure they can exercise safely, and improve their emotional health and wellbeing.
These activities have included personal training at a ladies’ only gym, trampolining, woodland walks, and a visit to an Alpaca Sanctuary.
“They also get to hang out, socialise, make food and have lots of fun,” says Jannine. “Over the last few months, the girls have become more engaged in the group and with other members. We have identified the need to increase the frequency that the group meet and have acknowledged the positive impact this is having on their wellbeing.”
In order to build Hope’s offering, the group applied for funding from the South West Wales Connected Community Changemakers Fund, was awarded £600 to support activities within Hope.
“Darren and I recognised the need for the group to have regular opportunities to take part in activities, both indoors and outdoors in the local area,” says Jannine. “These activities can help to build the girls confidence and improve their emotional health and wellbeing; however, they do come with associated costs. The funding is being used to pay towards activities for the group.
“The Changemakers Fund is about making change in the community, it is also about promoting wellbeing. This ethos fitted with the purpose and aims of ‘Hope’ and seemed an appropriate fund to apply for,” she adds.
The funding will boost the girls’ opportunities to take part in activities that they wouldn’t normally be able to.
“The funding will offer the girls opportunities to try out new activities and learn new skills,” says Jannine. “They have already enjoyed yoga sessions and a self-defence class. We are very grateful for the funding that has been received to ensure that we can continue to offer fun, safe activities for the group.”