Young Inspectors – disabled and non-disabled young people inspecting youth provision in Sheffield

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Disability
  • Youth
  • General resources

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

Integrated Youth Support Service, Sheffield City Council

Local authority/local area:

Sheffield City Council

The context and rationale

In 2009, Sheffield ran a pilot of a Young Inspectors project called ‘Check It Out!’ Staff worked with a group of primary aged disabled and non-disabled children to look at what activities were available for children aged 8-13 years in Sheffield over a half-term holiday and how accessible they were. The findings from the project showed that there was some good practice but also that changes need to be made in some areas. The project also found that children wanted provision that was accessible for all so that disabled children could access leisure activities with their non-disabled peers.

In 2010, it was decided that there was value in a longer term project to inspect leisure provision across the city for 13-19 year olds, to improve practice. 15 disabled and non-disabled young people were trained as Young Inspectors, who then went out across the city inspecting activities and venues against a set of criteria the young people had devised. The aims of the project were to award certificates to successful provision, which would be recognised across the city by other young people wishing to access ‘good’ provision, and to provide recommendations to other settings to help them improve their practice.

The young people were recruited from a mainstream secondary and a special secondary school based on the same site. The school wanted to increase opportunities for the pupils to work together and build relationships and were therefore enthusiastic to support the project.

In November 2011, a new Young Inspectors project was begun with a group of Year 7 pupils to inspect provision for 8-13 year olds. The feeder schools for this particular secondary school come from two distinct areas of the city – one with a high BME population; the other with a predominantly white working class population. Some of the recent racial tension in the city has been played out in the school; a key focus of this group is around developing cohesion between pupils from the two different feeder areas.

The practice

The process involved the following steps:

Recruitment of young people. A presentation was given to young people in the appropriate year groups in assemblies and in classrooms. Young people were asked to complete an application form, stating why they wanted to be a Young Inspector. These were then discussed with staff in school, and a group of young people selected who it was felt would most benefit from being part of the project (low confidence, difficulties in relationships with peers, etc).

Building relationships with families. Time was spent visiting each family and developing a one page profile for each young person (further information on the one page profiles is available on their website It was felt important to meet the families so that staff knew how to effectively support each young person and so that the families would be familiar with staff and confident that their child’s needs would be met. At this meeting consent was also sought for the young people’s participation in the activities, and photo consent to cover use of photos in any publicity and training as a result of the project.

Training. Three training sessions were delivered (further details about each session can be obtained from: C4EO team at the NFER). 

Workshop 1: An Introduction to the Project 
The aims of this workshop were to introduce the young people to the project, get to know each other, explore different methods of communication, find out activities the young people like to do, agree on an activity for a trial visit and explore different methods for investigating. The workshop ran for a full day and activities alternated between ‘work’ segments and games (see ‘Games’ below for more information). 

Workshop 2: Trial Inspection 
During this workshop the young people reflected on the work carried out during workshop 1, completed a trial visit to an activity and considered some of the positive and negative aspects of their experience.

Workshop 3: Completing Our Manifesto
The aims of this workshop were to draw up a final assessment framework for the inspections and agree on a scoring system for visits.

Throughout the course of these workshops, a range of different ice-breaker and team-building games were played. Although there was a rough outline of when games would be played, it was important to be flexible and games were added when it was thought the group needed re-energising. The list below is a sample of the games played: 
Name game: Say your name and then mime the action of something you love to do. The group then has to guess what you are miming.
Balloon game: A balloon has to be kept up in the air trying to see how many touches can be made without it falling to the floor. When the balloon is touched by someone everyone shouts out that person’s name.
Human knot: Young people stand in a circle, each holding a piece of long string. They then take hold of the end of someone else’s string, from across the circle. The aim is to untangle yourself without letting go of the string. The game is finished when all the young people are standing in a circle still holding the string.

Meetings with service providers. Staff met with service providers to discuss the project and get ‘buy in’ from them. At this meeting a process was agreed for feedback – how this would be sent to the organisation and how it would be disseminated within the organisation to achieve maximum impact. The first step was to approach council-commissioned provision which would ultimately be tied into future funding bids. As the project progressed, private sector leisure providers in the city were also approached which generated income to increase the sustainability of the project.

Inspection visits. Staff searched brochures, websites and local press to find activities advertised for the 13-19 age range that matched the young people’s interests. They then rang the young people and their families to find out who wanted to take part. For the visits, staff hired a self-drive minibus to take the young people to the activities. Following each visit the group completed their assessment framework and agreed on a star rating and recommendations.

Feedback to services. Following the visits, staff write up the young people’s feedback which is then sent through to the organisation, as agreed in the service provider meeting. Services receive a feedback pack that includes:
- The young people’s comments and star rating
- Young people’s recommendations
- A poster of the assessment criteria
- A certificate (if the activity has passed the inspection)
- An adult’s assessment (this is an account of the adult’s experiences i.e. finding out what’s available, booking onto the session etc. The adult’s assessment does not influence the young people’s star rating for the activity).

A copy of the Young Inspectors manual can be obtained from: C4EO team at the NFER.

Evidencing your practice has made a difference to children, young people and families

Evaluation: During the initial year of the project, staff constantly sought feedback from the young people and their parents and carers. This was done through informal chats with the young people during visits and with families when picking up and dropping off their children. At the end of year one, a formal evaluation was carried out examining the young people’s experiences and development. This was done through:

• Producing an evaluation DVD
• Parental questionnaires 
• School staff questionnaires
• Self evaluation form

The success of the project was based on the following principles:
• Improvement of provision for young people in Sheffield
• Increase in confidence and skills of young people

Small constant changes are being made all the time by the providers. A few bigger changes have been made at this stage in the project and these include:
• The hoist at a swimming pool has been mended and a spare one purchased to provide cover if one breaks
• Times permitted for swimming sessions have been extended to take into account additional time sometimes needed to change a disabled service user
• Sessions previously advertised as for the 8-16 age group have now been split into two age groups 
• Websites are updated more frequently to ensure all information is correct
• The advertisement of activities has been improved, with more information and young person-friendly icons. 

The evaluation has shown that the young people have benefitted in a number of ways from being involved in the project. Staff from school, parents and the young people themselves have all said how the project has helped to improve and increase their confidence. Staff have commented that the young people are more verbal in class discussions, not afraid to ask questions and they are generally more engaged in school life. 

The young people’s rating of how they perceived their confidence has risen over the course of the project. Although this growth in self-belief cannot be entirely attributed to the Young Inspector Project, the feedback received through the evaluations would appear to suggest that the young people’s involvement in the project has contributed greatly to this improvement.
One example of this is the hosting of the celebration evening by one of the Young Inspectors. This particular young person commented that they would not have been brave enough to stand in front of 80 people and host a 3 hour event before taking part in the project! 

Following feedback, the young people did not attribute their increased confidence to one single factor, rather a combination of the beneficial factors attached to a project of this nature. Factors identified by the young people included meeting new people, building relationships with disabled young people, learning new ways to communicate and express themselves, developing skills in discussion, compromise and teamwork and seeing things changed as a result of their feedback to services. 

Parents’ evaluation questionnaires highlighted how friendships have been made, confidence has grown and how it has opened the young people’s eyes to the fact they can influence the provision they are accessing. 

The project has enabled young people to build relationships with other young people that they wouldn’t necessarily get the chance to do usually. Staff have observed the young people forming great relationships with one another and staff at school report that many are now friends with each other outside of the project. The young people from mainstream school have learnt a lot about diversity and inclusiveness and that they are not just inspecting services for themselves but for other people with a range of different needs. Collaborating with both schools has enabled the young people to become more open minded, unprejudiced and mature. 

At the beginning of the project the young people were shy and a bit reserved in coming forward with their ideas but over time, through experience, they have built up a frame of reference and the confidence to make very valid judgements about an activity. They have excellent ideas for improvements that are not only new and creative but are also reasonable adjustments that services can make without too much expense. 

Celebrating achievements

The project has now run successfully for just over a year and to celebrate the young people’s achievements, a celebration evening was held in November 2011. The young people and their families, councillors, the Executive Director for Children’s Services in Sheffield and senior managers from service areas that had been inspected, were invited. One of the Young Inspectors hosted the evening and service providers were invited to speak about how the Young Inspectors’ feedback has positively changed areas of their service delivery. On the evening the young people were presented with an award as recognition for their hard work by Sheffield’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People. 

The Young Inspectors project will continue indefinitely. The groups will change as the project progresses, which will give other young people in the city the opportunity to become a Young Inspector. Services are constantly feeding back to us the changes they have made. The Young Inspectors’ evaluations are posted on the Children’s Voices website ( along with feedback from the provider to say what they are going to do as a result of the Young Inspectors’ recommendations. The Young Inspectors logo will also be posted on other websites advertising activities with the aim that it will become a recognised logo to indicate quality provision.

For a copy of the evaluation DVD to see the young people speaking about their experiences, please contact Children’s Voices or C4EO team at the NFER.

Helping others to replicate your practice

Barriers faced during the project include:

• Organisational resistance to being inspected. Managers were initially reluctant to engage due to worries about a negative picture being portrayed of their service
• Transport issues getting the Young Inspectors to and from the activity safely
• Cooperation from schools in accessing the students for training and evaluation sessions
• Staff being prepared to work flexible hours (supporting the young people during evening and weekend visits)


Staffing for the project is as follows:
• One 0.5 FTE project lead (Grade 6 - salary £22,644 to £26,706)
• One additional worker to support on visits, approximately 8-12 hours a week. Cost savings could be made by employing an apprentice or lower grade staff member to accompany the project leader on visits.
Visits, depending on the number of young people and their support needs, require a minimum two members of staff.
The length of each visit varies depending on the activity being inspected; the following is an average for a visit:
• 1 hour - collect the young people from home
• 1.5 hours - complete the activity 
• 0.5 hours - discuss the activity and write the inspection report 
• 1 hour - drop off the young people off at home 
Total time for one visit: approximately 4 hours but is dependent on distance the young people live from each other, distance to travel to the activity and duration of the activity. 
On average 2/3 visits are completed per week. 

Due to the age group and support needs of the young people, it was necessary to pick them up from school or home and drop them off at home after every visit. It was decided that due to the size of the group and the nature of the project it was more cost efficient to use a minibus than to use taxis. On some occasions, taking into consideration the size of the group and their support needs, taxis or public transport have been used.
Transport related costs are as follows:
• 2 members of staff completed MIDAS (Minibus Drivers Awareness Scheme) 
£105 per person for a one day course that covered accessibility training 
£25 per person per hour of confidence training in the minibus
• Price of hiring a minibus for a visit 
£20 flat price + £1.00 per mile + £1.50 per hour.

Training Workshops:
Training workshops for the 13-19 Young Inspector project were held at school, during school time and therefore did not incur any cost. On reflection, to reduce distractions linked to the school day, it was felt that it would be better to hold workshops in an alternative venue. Costs were as follows: 
• Average venue hire for half a day - £140.00
• Transport hire to and from the venue - minibus costings, as above.

Inspecting Activities: 
Activity costs can vary from a free football session to £24 for a horse riding lesson. A lot of the activities provided by Sheffield City Council are free to attend and providers who have commissioned contracts though the City Council supply us with vouchers for their activities so we can attend free of charge. 

The internal design team within Sheffield City Council designed the feedback pack to send to providers following inspection visits. Costs were as follows:
• Feedback folder: 500 copies @ £1016.00
• Feedback letter head: 1500 copies @ £366.00
• Certificate: 500 copies @ £285.00
• A3 Poster: 500 copies @ £354.00
Total marketing cost: £2021.00 

The links in this example to C4EO’s golden threads are:
• Culture not structure
• Unite to Succeed

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