Priority 5: Involve Young People in Recruitment

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Recruitment and selection of staff (internally or externally) involves children and young people throughout.

Involve young people as experts by experience in all stages of the recruitment, including advert design, person specification, job description and interview panel. You could also require a reference from young people, and devise scenario-based interview questions to determine a candidate’s ability to deal with the issues and situations that matter to young people.

“Service users should be involved in interview process for jobs. I heard someone say, ‘The service users pick the same person as us.’ This may be true but it doesn’t make having them on the panel redundant as it gives them a voice and makes them feel they have a say in the service they receive.”

Talking about Talking Therapies, Year One, March 2011

Case Study 6: Involving young people in staff recruitment and selection in Devon

Robin Tay, Devon CAMHS Youth Participation Worker, reports on how to involve young people in the staff recruitment process

I came into post with a list of objectives at the top of which was involving young people in the recruitment of staff. When being interviewed for the post I was asked to prepare a presentation for a panel of young people, but to my knowledge this was one of only two instances of this happening within Devon CAMHS at that time.

So far we have involved young people at the interview stage and have used a variety of models for this. These are:

  • Candidates being asked to prepare a presentation for a panel of young people on a given theme
  • A young people’s panel that have prepared a list of questions for the candidates
  • One or two young people sitting on the main panel alongside professional managers and practitioners.
  • Young people facilitating informal discussions with candidates around an appropriate theme.

In terms of recruiting young people to be involved, I have approached this in a number of ways. Not long after I took up the position, I had postcards made promoting participation work in CAMHS and encouraging service users to get in touch. These are displayed and distributed from CAMHS bases and other appropriate locations. Also, when meeting the CAMHS teams I asked practitioners to make their clients aware of this work if they felt it was appropriate. Through these means, I have built a core group of young people that are using or have recently used CAMHS and who are interested in contributing to its development. Alongside this I have run workshops in schools, colleges and youth groups, sometimes working with other CAMHS practitioners. These workshops have had two purposes – to raise young people’s awareness of mental health and to encourage them to become involved in the participation work that is going on within CAMHS.

The process of involving young people in interviewing candidates is adapted according to the post being recruited but essentially follows these stages:

  1. I will meet with the manager co-ordinating the recruitment and get information such as titles of post, job description and person specification, proposed date and timings of interviews.  Following this initial meeting I will recruit the panel (or young person if they are to sit on the professional panel) and arrange a meeting and training.  During this meeting the young people will look at the job description and person specification, decide on the model they would like to follow, and devise questions if appropriate.  We will also design a scoring sheet based on the qualities in the person specification that the young people are best able to assess.
  2. It is crucial that the young people know that their contribution is valued and that it clearly impacts on the final decision.  To this end the young people’s panel is given equal weighting with the professional panel (or if there is a young person sitting on the professional panel s/he will be given the same weight as other members on that panel). The young people also have the power of veto, allowing them to prevent the appointment of a candidate that they feel is inappropriate for the post being recruited.
  3. Having interviewed the candidates, the young people join the adults to discuss their assessments of the candidates and to make a final decision about the appointment.
  4. Resources required for this process are travel expenses and refreshments for the young people’s panel.  The issue of reimbursement needs to be considered – we generally give the young people involved a gift voucher to recognise their contribution to the process.  We also give them a Children’s Trust Certificate which lists the key learning objectives of their experience.
  5. Feedback from young people tells us that they get a great deal out of this involvement. The experience of being involved in interviewing candidates provides them with valuable knowledge and skills for when they find themselves being interviewed. With the professionals valuing and respecting them, the experience has a very positive impact on their confidence and self esteem.  The experience can make a valuable addition to their CVs and they can call on a professional from CAMHS to provide a job reference (or similar) should they need one.
  6. Some feedback from young people involved in recruitment:


“I really enjoyed doing the interviews and I felt very appreciated!”

“ I found it really interesting to see how different the presentations were from each person, because none of them were alike and I like how everyone had their own idea on what to show…they did listen and take into account how we felt about each of the candidates.

“We were made to feel included and not treated like children but more like young adults.”

“Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to have my say, it means a lot to get involved.”

Other feedback acknowledging the value for young people:

“As far as I’m concerned these experiences have been really important in themselves, to build H’s self-confidence, and I’m really keen that she takes part.” (Parent)

“Thanks again for these great opportunities for them. Seems to be a lot of negative experiences around so positive times like these are much required to keep spirits moving forward.” (College tutor)

In simple terms the benefit for CAMHS is that it becomes a more effective and productive service as a result of young people’s input into this process.  Young people are able to assess a candidate’s ability to engage with children and young people much more effectively than any adult professional can.  They raise issues that adults may miss and therefore highlight both positive and negative attributes that candidates present.  Having staff that have been able to demonstrate their ability to interact positively with children and young people will inevitably make for a more accessible service for its users.

Feedback from CAMHS professional after working with a young people’s interview panel

“Just wanted to feed back how successful I felt the process was yesterday. The young people were really professional and considerate in their thoughts and presentation. I think the young people’s and the ‘formal’ panel worked really well and I would certainly endorse this way of working for future. …a real and meaningful collaboration. Look forward to the next time.”

Some of the key things to be aware of in my experience:

  • It’s really important that the professionals and young people are absolutely clear about the role and weighting of the panel(s) and that this is agreed at the beginning of the process.
  • Getting all the information from the professionals and to the young people is also extremely important and can sometimes be a challenge.  The job description/person specification, interview date(s) and schedules etc, ideally candidates’ application forms and any other relevant material should be available to the young people at the earliest opportunity,
  • Arranging the date and the timings to have the minimum impact on the young peoples’ education/work commitments can be difficult and requires some flexibility from all parties.  Often schools/colleges are very supportive because of the positive nature of the experience but it is really important to take into account the young people’s needs and commitments elsewhere.
  • Having funds available for transport, refreshments and reimbursement is very important and, again, needs to be confirmed early in the process.
  • It’s important that the young people are involved in the final deliberations so that they can see first-hand the impact of their feedback and they can hear the professionals’ assessment of the candidates.
  • It is vital that the young people receive feedback for the contribution that they have made and are invited to give feedback on the process.  Also, it is really important that they are told when the candidate has accepted the post or, if they don’t, that an offer has been made to the second-choice candidate.

Our experience of involving young people in recruitment has been incredibly positive with young people and professionals alike, reporting the value of this process.  We have involved young people in appointments at all levels including Assistant Director: Integrated Children’s Service Delivery, Practice Managers, Clinicians/Practitioners and Administrators.  Almost without exception, the experiences have been extremely productive with adults and young people working effectively together and making decisions that everyone feels positive about.

Case Study 7: Lost Luggage, Lincolnshire

Lost Luggage is a group of young people aged 11 to 18 whose aim is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health, as well as to work with CAMH services in Lincolnshire to help them to improve the service they provide to young people.

Before 2011, the child and family service had a small participation group made up of young people who had used CAMH services as well as Young Foundation Trust members who had been meeting since 2008.  This group was established as a direct result of feedback from young people and their families asking to be more involved in the day-to-day running and future plans of the service.

In 2011, several CAMHS practitioners realised that this group was underutilised and they decided to make a concerted effort to give the group a renewed focus.  They recruited more young people to the group and as their efforts gained momentum Lost Luggage had their first large meeting which was attended by eleven young people along with five members of CAMHS staff.

They looked at developing a presentation to be delivered to the CAMHs steering group to showcase the fantastic work that they had already done as well to as set out priorities for the future. Those priorities were:

  • How to offer the trust feedback?
  • How to improve service user participation?
  • How to raise funds to strengthen the group?
  • How to reduce stigma?

Out of these priorities came a number of pieces of work including an article for the YoungMinds magazine on bullying and the associated stigma. The group has also now secured funding from the trust and are going to be involved in recruitment and selection of staff as well as the training and development of staff across the partnership.

In addition to this Lost Luggage are currently involved in a project working with Primary Mental Health workers from the partnership to raise awareness of the issues surrounding mental health and to try to reduce the stigma around mental health in schools.

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