I want to briefly outline my role as Commissioner and some of my upcoming work to you and then I will speak on challenges you face.
As Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People my job is described simply as:
Promoting and safeguarding the rights and best interests of children and young people to help them challenge and change the world in which they live.
But most importantly my job is to give children and young people in Northern Ireland a voice. And that’s all children and young people up to 18 in Northern Ireland. Except in 2 circumstances were YP who are in care or are disabled and that’s up to the age of 21.
Later this month I am launching a review of Children’s Rights in Northern Ireland. This review was carried out by my staff and involved directly speaking to over 2000 children and young people – including young people from this organisation.
It will be no surprise that many of the issues highlighted in this DVD are also included in the report. The findings of this review helped me to decide on my priorities for the next three years – Two of my five priorities are featured in this DVD ‘emotional health and wellbeing’ and ‘equal treatment’.
I see you facing three challenges; challenges to you as young people, challenges to your families, and challenges for Government.
For you as young people there are many challenges. These include managing in school, making people understand what ADD is and what you need to help you achieve your potential. This is sometimes difficult. Because sometimes there are good systems and people in place who help and understand your issues. But too often there is not that support, and you are faced with what can seem like an impossible challenge to deal with the lack of understanding.
For parents, the challenges you can face can sometimes seem overwhelming. Are you alone, will anyone listen, will you be able to get the right care, the right support for your child? Sometimes people listen and understand, sometimes they don’t. Organisations like NI-ADD prove to you that you are not alone, and that shared experience can lead to new solutions.
Now I turn to Government. By Government I mean every arm of public service dedicated to providing care and services to children and young people. The services to our children and young people are not good enough. There have been improvements, but too often the services are patchy. I know from listening to children and young people that there is not enough support.
My job is to commend good practice and challenge poor practice. The experiences of young people with ADD show that there is not enough good practice.
The voice of young people is the voice I listen to. It is the voice, to be heard loud and clear when you see the DVD later on. It is the voice that Government must listen to if they are to meet the challenges raised in this room and further afield.
I am delighted to launch this DVD which looks at the real issues facing young people who have been diagnosed with AD/HD.
Since taking up the post of children’s commissioner over two years ago I have travelled the length and breadth of Northern Ireland talking to children and young people of all ages. Only children can tell us what life is like for them and only children can tell us what changes are needed to improve their lives. Often it doesn’t cost huge sums of money just someone taking the time to listen and change the way they behave.
I believe that initiatives like this one are an excellent example of how children and young people can inform adults and show us life from their perspective.
I want to congratulate the young people who made this DVD, so often on the news we see young people portrayed in a negative light by the media – it’s fantastic to see young people using their skills to produce a resource that can be used by others. I wish you all well in the future and with your challenge I leave you with these words from the writer Joshua Marine which I hope will encourage each and everyone here to meet the needs of children and young people with ADD/ADHD:
Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.