By Liv Francis-Pape, volunteer Young Listener (aged 22 years, support worker)

The Young Listener’s Project is an innovative and collaborative way to assess health services, specifically people’s access and experiences.  Not only does the project promote a wonderfully humanistic and person-centred approach but it is also a fantastic experience for us Young Listeners.  We get excellent training which ranges from safeguarding and confidentiality but also to listening skills and building resilience aspects.  There are twelve of us volunteering for the project, interesting young people of various ages and backgrounds.

Personally, I love people – I find their stories beyond fascinating and am very passionate about improving people’s access to health care.  Sadly, negative experiences with health services really stick in your brain.  It takes a great deal of courage to ask for help, to reach out or to see a medical professional, and if the result is a bad one, that might impact the person’s opinions and courage.

It has been wonderful getting to know the other Young Listeners, discussing our personal values and asking the necessary questions to feel ready to safely listen to others.  I really look forward to some of the plans for the summer and engaging with the other volunteers in person.

Here in Dorset, we are extremely lucky to have efficient and brilliant health care services, but unfortunately this is not the case for everyone and each county’s approach varies exponentially.  However I do feel confident asking for help when I need it, I know the people I need to contact and the approach I’ve experienced is humane, kind and effective.

As well as being trained in a myriad of useful skills, Healthwatch Dorset has treated us Young Listeners very well – we even received a couple of goody bags in the post which was a lovely surprise.  And, to spoil us even more, we are given the ability to learn and educate ourselves in areas such as nutrition and wellbeing, case studies, diversity and disabilities, equality and unconscious bias.  Finally, we are even going to Brownsea Island for fun as a group, sometime in the near future.

All in all I think this project really promotes a well-rounded view of the healthcare system, and personally as a care worker, it benefits both my compassion and efficiency in my job and my personal access to healthcare.