27th June 2024 Blog

Mental health reflections from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children

Young people •

McPin recently spent a day at the APPG for Children, with one of our young person’s advisory group members. They share their takeaways from the day, and advice for the next government.

Emma Garavini & Clara Garavini  

On Tuesday 14th May 2024 Emma, our Senior Youth Involvement Officer here at McPin, and Clara, a McPin Young People’s Advisory Group (YPAG) Member, attended Parliament.  

The event was held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Children and the National Children’s Bureau featuring the Children’s Commissioner. The big question of the day was: “How can the next government prioritise the issues that matter to young people?”  

Key issues for children and young people

There were presentations from a wide range of young representatives who spoke passionately and inspiringly about the issues that matter most to them, they spoke from the heart and from their own lived experience of these issues. These issues were:  

  • Children and young people’s voices  
  • Experience of children’s social care and support by wider families and networks  
  • Special Educational Needs and Disability   
  • Mental Health 

The members of the APPG for Children all responded to the young representatives and the questions that were put to them about what they could do to ensure the next government prioritise these issues that effect children and young people throughout the UK.  

This was also the topic of our recently released ‘10 asks of the next government ahead of the General Election‘ document. We worked with young people with lived experience of mental health issues, together with academic partners, to collate ten points that highlight what the research suggests needs to be prioritised to improve young people’s mental health. 

How can the next government improve young people’s mental health? 10 asks.

‘Refreshing and inspiring’

Emma: It was refreshing and inspiring to see young people’s voices and lived experience placed at the heart of this event. The stories shared by the young representatives allowed me to reflect on the difficulties that many young people in this country face.  

I heard from young people who spoke about their experience of long waiting lists to be diagnosed with Special Educational Needs (SEN), Autism and ADHD and the impact that sitting in “waiting list limbo” can have on their mental health and wellbeing and the difficulties of awaiting a diagnosis.  

One young person shared their story of their brother who had SEN and was passed from service to service “like a parcel” receiving no support that they desperately needed in the process.  

We also heard from a care experienced young person who said that they were more anxious about their housing placement and being moved far across the country rather than being anxious about their GCSE exams; the toll this stress and anxiety has on a young person and how it should be the other way round.  

Tim Loughton (Chair of the APPG) responded that sadly the issues that care experienced young people face are the same issues that they were facing 20 years ago.  

I want to carry forwards the awareness of these difficulties that young people face and continue to advocate and ensure that young people’s voices are heard in all rooms where they are discussed.

Emma Garavini, McPin Senior Youth Involvement Officer

‘It is only right for me to listen to young people’

We heard from young people who spoke about mental health. One young person shared their experience of inpatient services, the impact this has on their mental health and lives – and, sadly, the common theme of not feeling as though they were taken seriously.   

There were also stories, experiences and questions shared from parents of babies and young people. For example, the benefits of paternity pay and leave and support for new parents and the huge benefits this has on babies’ development. 

The link between parents’ mental health and wellbeing and the wellbeing and development of their babies and children.  

There are so many issues that children and young people in this country currently face, and I left the event touched, inspired and a little dumbfounded asking myself “how can we even begin to address all these hugely important issues?!”.  

The words and experiences that were shared so earnestly by the young representatives I will carry forward with me. What was refreshing was that it felt as though their voices were in the right room and those who were listening have the power to address these issues.  

Where my job involves working, involving and advocating with and for young people it is only right for me to listen when they speak and to hear their words with the weight of their lived experience, passion and conviction.  

I want to carry forwards the awareness of these difficulties that young people face and continue to advocate and ensure that young people’s voices are heard in all rooms where they are discussed. Centring young people’s voices is key to ensuring that we are addressing the issues they face.  

I learned so much but also had the realisation that there is a lot of work to do and that there are many areas of the different systems that are outdated and need lots of improvement.

Clara Garavini, McPin YPAG member

‘Issues were brought up which I’ve never thought about myself’

Clara: I was so happy and lucky to be able to attend this event. We sat in a room which was filled with people from all walks of life who had come together to ensure change in the future so people wouldn’t need to go through what they did. 

We listened to many people who kindly shared their life experiences and spoke to us about what change they wanted. We covered just four topics that day about different issues when we could’ve spent weeks on just one of the topics.  

Many issues were brought up including those which I’ve never realised or thought about myself, like male paternity leave.  

I learned so much but also had the realisation that there is a lot of work to do and that there are many areas of the different systems that are outdated and need lots of improvement.   

After the talk, we moved over to another building where we were given lunch and I put myself forward to doing a short interview.  

They split the people who put themselves forward to do an interview into three groups and gave one question to each group to answer. My question was ‘what effect did I feel the overall event had had?’ 

We had all clearly faced the prickly sides of life but comfortably shared our troubles as this atmosphere of pure safety and familiarity filled the room.

Clara Garavini, McPin YPAG member

‘We had all faced the prickly sides of life’ 

While waiting to do my interview I sat with a number of other young people who had attended the event (albeit they were all 18+). This I must say was one of my favourite moments of the day.  

We sat in a circle and discussed our views on the day whilst sharing our own life stories and connecting with each other as we related to one another’s lives. It was surreal and heartwarming just to sit at peace with each other and laugh about life.  

We had all clearly faced the prickly sides of life but comfortably shared our troubles as this atmosphere of pure safety and familiarity filled the room.   

After some time we were all called outside to a beautiful grass area and one by one did our interview.  

We all watched and supported each other before sharing contacts and parting ways. As I mentioned in my interview it was an honour to be in the room that day I truly feel and hope that change is coming and one day everyone will be able to get the correct help they need.  

‘Just because something appears perfect usually means it’s not’

Clara: Something I did notice is that the majority of the speakers had come from poorer backgrounds and had dealt with issues like the foster system or not being diagnosed until very late.  

I know that I come from what appears to be a good background. I’m not naive to the fact that I’m so lucky with uncontrollable aspects in life like that my parents are still married and I go to boarding school whilst living in a safe location.  

However, it’s those reasons that schools, friends, boyfriends, family, and therapists have used against me to try to tell me why “I can’t have any issues because my life is ‘perfect’ and I should know how lucky I am”.  

I want to advocate that just because something appears perfect usually means it’s not, just the same way I believe the happiest person has felt the most sadness and the prettiest eyes have cried the most tears.  

Of course, there wasn’t any discrimination and everyone in that room was there for the same purpose: to make a difference.  

However, I feel that they missed that one person to stand up and say that everyone can have issues and when society and what’s visually in front of you gets stripped away we are all humans at the end of the day and are all in the same sinking boat together.  

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this event and am so happy that I was able to get involved. It’s these sorts of events that push closer to change.  

There’s so many issues that need to be addressed and I’m confident that people are working  hard to ensure justice for all who have suffered and been let down in their lives because they didn’t have the correct resources at their disposal to help them.  

A suggestion that arose several times throughout the event was having a manifesto written by both political parties that is specifically for young people.

Emma Garavini, McPin Senior Youth Involvement Officer

Ask young people and act on their words

Emma: A suggestion that arose several times throughout the event was having a manifesto written by both political parties that is specifically for young people. I found this to be an excellent suggestion.  

The issues that children and young people face are specific to them, and they are saying they need to be heard and taken seriously. 

 A manifesto written specifically for them that addresses the issues they face would show that we are listening, we are taking young people seriously and we want to address the issues they face with them.  

“Children make up 20% of the population but 100% of the future.” 

This was a running theme/quote of the event. Children are our future so it’s time we start investing in them. In the work that I do, I have seen first hand the powerful and beneficial impact that placing young people’s voices and opinions at the centre of issues and research can have.  

So, when asked what can the next government do to prioritise the issues that matter to children and young people? My answer is, ask them, listen to them and act on their words.  

I think they should start in places like schools and make sure they ask the young people themselves what their thoughts are and start there.

Clara Garavini, McPin YPAG member

Centring people with lived experience

Clara: I hope the government will pay attention to what is being said and not let people who have never gone through anything be the people to make decisions for everyone else.  

I’m hoping they will look at people of all ages and who have dealt with many situations and will try the best they can to improve the lives of as many as they can.  

I appreciate there’s a lot of work to do but if we could see them physically trying and doing all they can instead of making promises then not living up to them.  

I think they should start in places like schools and make sure they ask the young people themselves what their thoughts are and start there.  

They should then make a plan and a timeline which is then shown to several young people with a range of problems that have been faced and ask for their opinion.  

The government can then adapt and improve their plan as a result of the young people’s opinion. The young people need to ensure that they keep coming together and spreading awareness to make others notice and realise that change is necessary and a long time overdue.  

I can only hope that the government will listen to the young people in this country and that they do everything they can.   

Catch Clara speaking (twice!) in the event video from the National Children’s Bureau:


Emma Garavini is a Senior Youth Involvement Officer at McPin and Clara Garavini is a McPin Young People’s Advisory Group (YPAG) Member.