Mark Greatrex, Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust’s interim chief executive, writes for the Globe.
Last week saw our children and young people return to their classrooms after a second round of home schooling and what a big milestone and welcome change it was.
The pandemic and lockdown have affected us all in many ways, but the younger generation in particular have felt an enormous impact over the last 12 months with schools, colleges and universities closing their doors to the majority to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
These places are more than just somewhere to go each day to learn – they’re hubs of social interaction, something which our children and young people have missed lately.
Parents, carers and teaching staff have been doing an amazing job to support children and young people during lockdown with virtual home schooling and providing safe spaces in the classroom for pupils of keyworkers and I want to say a big thank you to you all.
Embracing the virtual home-schooling and ways of working that we have become accustomed to, Wirral’s first NHS Cadet Programme launched late last year, with the team delivering the programme at The Hive ensuring that 70 young residents across Wirral continued to access this exciting programme remotely during lockdown.
The NHS Cadet Programme, which began in October 2020, is a 12-month course designed to engage with young people who wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to work or volunteer within the NHS.
In Wirral the programme is delivered as a joint initiative between our Trust, St John Ambulance and The Hive.
We’re the first Community Trust in the country to be involved in this innovative pilot programme.
It provides 14 to 16-year-olds with courses to develop their leadership skills, and in normal circumstances, first aid training and volunteering opportunities in the NHS – including vital hands-on work experience in NHS settings.
The dedicated and passionate team at The Hive have continued the programme throughout lockdown which, at a time when traditional education and socialising weren’t happening – perhaps two of the biggest elements of a young person’s life – has been an invaluable resource for the cadets.
Over the last 15 weeks of the programme, the team has delivered a staggering 45 sessions, with a total of 835 cadets participating.
The cadets have engaged in sessions on transferable skills such as communication and teamwork, as well as sessions on mental health and wellbeing and infection prevention control – paramount lessons in these challenging times.
During lockdown, cadets have received wellbeing packs, including mindfulness colouring books and self-care items.
Delivering these much needed resources has also been an opportunity for the team to check-in with the young people to get a sense of how they are coping and together with the social media group set up by the cadets themselves, it has given them a sense of belonging and community in what could have been a lonely or isolating period.
While the virtual programme has been a lifeline in recent times, the cadets and the Hive team look forward to being able to meet in person once again to run face-to-face courses and continue meeting new friends and building relationships.
The team is also looking ahead to a voyage with The Tall Ships Youth Trust for up to 30 of the cadets to sail from Liverpool to Portsmouth in June this year.
The cadets are fundraising for this amazing opportunity – keep an eye out on social media for more details @TheHiveYZ and @wchc_nhs Experiencing new opportunities like this, to grow and develop is what being an NHS Cadet is all about.
Of course, what makes the NHS so remarkable is its people, and as part of that family the cadets are given experiences to shape their future.
To work alongside our partners at The Hive and St John Ambulance to deliver Wirral’s first NHS Cadet Programme is something that I and all of my colleagues here at the Trust are truly proud of.
Volunteering and working in the NHS is about learning new skills and having new experiences – so this programme helps the cadets develop tools they can use in the next steps of their journey. Being an NHS Cadet is a chance to make something theirs – all while making a difference to other people’s lives, which is what the NHS is all about.”
I’d like to round up my column with a quote from one of our partners about this wonderful project.
Stuart Barnes, chief executive at The Hive Youth Zone said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for young people, and we are proud to be working in partnership with organisations from across Wirral which have, together, enabled this project to reach those who will benefit most.
“Raising aspirations and changing lives is at the heart of Youth Work at The Hive, and this programme does just that, giving young people a real chance to experience work with the NHS in an unprecedented way.”