A Year at Children England, through the lens of the ChildFair State Inquiry

Hi readers,

I am sad to say that this will be the last Make the Most of Monday, as my internship is now coming to a close. I have had the best year writing this blog and providing some much-needed positivity to the charity sector and I hope it has given you an inspiring boost when and where needed. 

I want to reflect on around a year ago, when I had just completed a great summer internship after a mentally draining second year of university. I was at a crossroads. One route being going back to university after that short burst of fulfilment and hoping it sustained my final year, or sticking with what I was enjoying and seeing where it could take me. After careful consideration, I chose the latter which resulted in me becoming the Policy and Communications Intern at Children England. And what a year it has been! I am so incredibly grateful for the amazing year that I have had, especially being a part of their newest project, the ChildFair State Inquiry.

For my final edition and to celebrate the year, I’d like to take you on a journey delving into different parts of my internship, though the lens of the Inquiry, as a new intern fresh into the charity sector. I hope you enjoy!


An introduction to the Inquiry

Back in October last year, October the 13th to be exact, I started my first week at Children England. Straight away, I was welcomed to the wonderful world of the ChildFair State Inquiry by the Children England team and our partners Leaders Unlocked, just in time for the first meeting set to take place the following Saturday. To be thrown straight into such a valuable project was scary to say the least, but definitely rewarding.

The meeting consisted of 26 young people from across the country gathering in London to meet for the first time, taking on the formal role of a Young Leader. I’ve always enjoyed working with children and have previously assisted community projects, so to be working directly with young people and gathering their views as my main job was truly a great feeling.

We needed to get to know these Young Leaders, so activities were developed to get to know them through their initial views of the welfare state, including what they felt was bad about the current system and their wants and needs for the future. In order for me to fully get stuck into the project, I was tasked to develop an activity too. These tasks really helped to shape our awareness as to what ideas these 26 Young Leaders had already. And being the newest facilitator for the project, it made me extremely excited about the project and what was to come.


Meeting the Sounding Board

If meeting 26 young people wasn’t exciting enough, I was then invited to get to know a great group of experts, forming a sounding board for the Young Leaders and their inquiry. It consisted of sector leaders, champions of lived experience, public service experts, educators and so many more. Feeling nervous was just the tip of the iceberg in how I was feeling. Up until this point I had joined a few external meetings and attended a few talks here and there. In fact I was still starstruck by my powerful team! So getting to know a group of 18 experts was extremely daunting. 

But I felt so welcomed by these lovely individuals, I didn't need to be so nervous! They spoke about their experiences, what they were passionate about and how they could bring that to the Inquiry. As cheesy as it sounds, I felt at home with this group as it is exactly what I aspire to do later on in my career.

This feeling was true for the rest of the sector too. As the year progressed, I started to attend some meetings alone and represent the charity at various events. As someone that never usually goes to events alone, my self-confidence has really increased during this year too.


The transition during Covid-19

Then the pandemic hit. It was a worrying time for many in the sector, several projects were not able to go ahead due to Covid-19 and redundancies threatened across the board. But despite the odds, our project and my internship transitioned to remote working successfully from March onwards. 

Although I’m sure it took a lot of work, Leaders Unlocked transitioned to remote working with our Young Leaders so effortlessly. The Inquiry continued using virtual research methods and the Young Leaders still managed to connect with almost 300 other young people. To interpret the research, we held various analysis sessions over Zoom, some with members of the Sounding Board too. This all led to a final "summit", where the Young Leaders, facilitators from Children England and Leaders Unlocked, and members of Sounding Board got together for two full days of developing the outline of a vision for a new welfare state. I am extremely grateful to our funders who believed in the project and were able to support us to transition effectively.

Remote working has been really interesting too. As millennials, we’re often told that our lives are ruled by screens and that we should try to limit them. But screens are what saved my internship. As a people-person, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard to adjust, but with the support from my team, especially my line manager Chloë, I still managed to complete the rest of my internship working from home. Although some stuff didn’t go to plan, a great mindset with room for setbacks were all we needed to successfully produce many different outputs.


Reflecting on the year

Although my year at Children England is coming to an end, I believe I and the Inquiry have grown a lot in the last year and our notable achievements should be celebrated:

We both learnt a lot. Gathering the views of young people are not easy, many of the views we gathered were highly sensitive and unique in nature. Young people often don’t feel listened to and don’t feel as comfortable in conveying their true thoughts. Yet the project not only successfully gathered these views, it did so in the middle of a global pandemic! On the other hand, I walked into this new role, with mostly retail experience. With competition for jobs sector wide, it’s extremely hard to get an internship without already completing your degree. But with this internship, I have gained immeasurable experience, a vast array of skills and made some life-long friends along the way too. Children England made both of these things happen because they believed in us. Children England believed in the Inquiry well before October last year, and they created the OpenToAll campaign with people like me in mind. Without the soul of Children England behind us, we both never would have made it this far.

We are both driven by collective power for change. The ChildFair State Inquiry is a project yearning for change in the system. But, so elegantly understands the need to listen to individual ideas alongside lived experience. For these reasons, although inspired and facilitated by adults, the project needed to be youth-led and the vision will be too. This Inquiry works collaboratively because no person can achieve change alone, but everyone has experiences that give them a passion for change and we can all share in this ambition. On a different note, I went into this internship quite disillusioned by the current state of politics. It got to a point where I was studying something that I wasn’t sure I believed in anymore. But through combining my lived experiences and my passion for social justice, and bringing that to the table of other ambitious change makers, I truly believe change is possible again.

We both have great futures ahead of us. The ChildFair vision is emerging and this is just the start of a new chapter for the Inquiry. The Young Leaders have started to present their findings and preliminary vision to small groups, including the Children England Board who were completely captivated to say the least. Final reports are hoped to be published by the end of the year, including a much more child-friendly and interactive output too. In between now and then, Children England will be arranging some webinars to discuss the findings with experts in the children’s sector. As for me, I have already started my final year at University with a much fresher mindset than I left it in 2019. I have many future aspirations centring around campaigning for children’s rights and with the experience of Children England behind me, I just know I am destined to go far.

To Conclude

I will be supporting the ChildFair State Inquiry in whatever way I can going forward. I hope this article encourages you to keep supporting too. But if you’re new to the Childfair State, then I hope if this article has done anything, it’s succeeded in encouraging you to keep a watchful eye too.

And I hope that charities continue to provide internships, even in this remote-working world. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and although it’s not how I imagined this internship would end, I've enjoyed it just as much and wouldn't change a thing.

Thank you for being with me on this journey.

Noori Piperdy