Brave, brave, brave! This was the word bounding around my head as I sat beside three care experienced young people during a public meeting of the council's cabinet. They were sitting in a packed cabinet meeting, attended by the leader of the council; the deputy leader of the council; the full complement of cabinet members; democracy support officers; the senior officer leadership team and members of the public and the press.
What were they doing? They were reporting to cabinet about the progress of Takeover Day in Barnsley over the last few years, the impact that it has had on their lives and the plans for next year's Takeover Day and beyond. They talked directly and openly about their individual experience, the difference it has made to their own aspirations and plans for the future.
This room was packed! Some might say it was overcrowded, it was certainly very hot - both in terms of room temperature and spotlight. In front of this large audience, these three remarkable young people delivered their messages clearly, coherently and with passion. You could have heard a pin drop. Not only because the members of the audience take their corporate parenting responsibilities very seriously, but because these three young people had, in their direct and respectful presentation, effectively commanded their audience's attention.
Their overall message? You delivered on your pledge to children in care, you have high aspirations for us, you are helping us to have high aspirations for ourselves. Through Takeover Day you are taking one opportunity of many to give us the support we need to be the best we can be and to achieve everything we want to. Don't stop, keep working with us to make it bigger and better. It's not now restricted to a single day but runs over a week to a month, so why not year-long?
The response? Resounding support from the council cabinet to maintain their commitment to Takeover Day and beyond, to continue to deliver their pledge to support high aspirations for all of our children in care and care experienced young people. As corporate parents, to continue to explore every avenue in securing work experience, internships, apprenticeships and jobs for children in care and care experienced young people.
Their reaction? On leaving the meeting the young people were quite rightly proud of their performance and pleased with the response to their presentation. They had carefully prepared for an event that they found daunting, they had managed their understandable anxiety really well and used it to help them deliver a brilliant presentation. They had gained very valuable experience and were full of enthusiasm for it to be even better next time. They were also (and very delightfully) giddy.
My reaction? I was a proud corporate parent; there can be no greater pleasure than seeing young people face something new, something daunting and challenging, and achieve - that's inspirational.
Rachel Dickinson is vice-president of the ADCS and executive director of people at Barnsley Council. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website