When we started YMT over twelve years ago, we did so with a determination to make Child Protection and excellent Pastoral Care central to our way of working. We recognise that ensuring the health, safety and welfare of the young people we work with is of paramount importance and understand that many parents and carers will have genuine concerns about their son/daughter/dependant staying away from home.
We have always had a serving police officer with experience of child protection as an adviser to our board of trustees. Currently this is Zoe Hilton, who is Head of Safeguarding at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection service (CEOP). Our Welfare Manager, Alison Woodward is currently the designated Child & Young Person Protection Coordinator and can call on Zoe’s expertise at any time.
All staff have enhanced Disclosure and Barring Scheme (DBS) checks (the new name for Criminal Records Bureau checks). It’s worth bearing in mind that a DBS check only tells us that someone has not already been convicted or is under investigation, so this alone is not enough. We believe it is more important that we have good procedures in place and ensure that these are adhered to by the whole organisation, from temporary artistic staff up to the trustees. We are committed to transparency and good practice so we have a robust Child Protection Policy which is available on request.
Each project has a team of pastoral staff led by a Head of Pastoral Care. They are experienced in working with young people and are on call 24 hours a day to provide practical and emotional support throughout the project. They act in loco parentis to under 16 year olds and have a duty of care to those over 15. They are expected to exercise the same care and control as a good parent would with a view to securing young people’s health, comfort and compassionate treatment.
Child Protection concerns are fairly rare but Pastoral Care is a continuous process and involves all young people in the company, regardless of age e.g. if a 20 year old participant is seriously unwell or injured, they still need someone to get them to hospital, phone home, collect a prescription, make travel arrangements etc.
Pastoral Staff arrange transport, look after valuables, deal with minor medical ailments, keep prescription medicines safe, take young people (and sometimes staff!) to hospital, try to ensure young people get the sleep and food they need, arrange social events, liaise constantly with artistic and production staff on timetabling and schedules, stay up till the last 21 year old is back on site in the evening and get up early to ensure that everyone is up for breakfast, arrange catering for special diets, deal with any emotional upsets and liaise with parents and other relatives as and when necessary.
Our projects have a wide range of ages so we have developed a set of guidelines and rules which cater for all age groups, trying not to be too restrictive for the older company members while ensuring the youngest feel well nurtured. Details are available in the YMT Guide which is provided when a young person starts a project.
Disabilities and illness
We try to ensure that all YMT courses are as accessible as possible, so if a young person needs special assistance to take part in a course, contact the office in advance to make arrangements. Disabled young people on YMT courses have included wheelchair users and those with visual and hearing impairment. Some of our residential venues may be more suitable than others and we try and take this into account when suggesting the best course or allocating a young person onto a production.
We make arrangements for the participation of young people with a wide range of conditions including allergies, epilepsy, asthma, diabetes and rarer conditions. We ask parents, carers and young people to be as honest as possible about illnesses or conditions, whether physical or mental – it’s much better that we know in advance so our pastoral staff can make provision or be prepared. We do NOT preclude any young person from taking part because of a pre-existing condition.
More practically, we ask the parent or guardian of an under 18 year old to fully complete and submit a Medical Form for the young person (over 18s should complete and sign the form themselves). On this form you are requested to give consent allowing pastoral staff to agree to medical treatment on your behalf in the event of an emergency where you cannot be contacted. You should also indicate if you give consent for pastoral staff to administer paracetamol and ibuprofen. If a young person takes prescribed medication, the pastoral team will take responsibility for this – you should supply us with clear instructions. Pastoral staff are on call 24 hours a day and in the event of any illness you will be kept informed.
Don’t be alarmed if we call to say a young person has been taken to hospital. Without access to local GPs, we often refer young people to A&E for relatively minor ailments as well as for the occasional more serious incident. In a very few cases we may decide we cannot take responsibility for a young person’s on-going illness and they have to return home where they can be better cared for. We would obviously discuss this with parents/carers on a case-by-case basis.
YMT courses can be very intensive with long working hours and emotional challenges and this sometimes brings existing medical or emotional issues into sharper focus. Our staff frequently have to assist and support young people with emotional upsets from their home lives. We try and deal with these as sensitively as possible and often the close presence of other young people helps in these situations and can provide strong motivation to remain on the course.
In the event of a young person being unable to continue for any reason we will assist in making arrangements for their safe return journey home.
All young people involved in YMT are ambassadors for the company and are expected to act accordingly. A list of unacceptable behaviour and how this is addressed is detailed in the Guide for Young People which everyone receives when they take part in a project. The pastoral staff are on hand to provide support and will offer clear, consistent boundaries. If behaviour endangers the safety and welfare of the young person or that of others they may be asked to leave the project. Where behaviour is potentially criminal the police will be notified. Beyond a verbal warning, you will be kept fully informed by telephone during any disciplinary process.
“YMT provides the proper tools, space and support so we are able to create a safe environment in which young people can explore ideas that challenge us all creatively, intellectually and emotionally.”Gwyneth Herbert, composer