Welcome to Listen Up!

Posted on 17 February 2021 in News & views

Listen Up was established to bring about change – join us and be part of the change.

At Listen Up we believe that all voices matter and that all voices should be heard. This hardly sounds revolutionary but surely it is something we all believe and can all get behind? Yet time and time again, in research, policy and practice the experiences of minoritised and marginalised children and young people remain absent and unaddressed.

With inequality built in to our knowledge base and subsequent tools, policies and approaches this leaves some children and young people more vulnerable than others. This is why it is our mission to amplify the experiences of minoritised and marginalised children and young people until all children are heard, seen and safeguarded.

What lies before us is a significant undertaking and we need you and people like you to bring about more inclusive safeguarding responses.

At Listen Up we envisage a time when a young person’s ethnicity, gender, class, disability, sexuality and faith does not determine their interactions with professionals, services or state institutions. This requires us all to step-up, be committed and be accountable for our actions. It starts with holding courageous conversations with our colleagues and within our services and organisations. Unflinching from the uncomfortable truths that notions of vulnerability and innocence are not afforded to certain children, young people and families.

We need to accept and own the truth that the implicit and explicit biases we personally hold, including those within our professional systems and structures, unfairly disadvantage and discriminate against entire groups of people. This can be seen in the youth justice responses to young Black boys who are criminally exploited, the lack of visibility of Black girls  and boys in sexual abuse services or in the challenges disabled young people face in having their sexual orientation and gender identity being taken ‘seriously’ to name but a few.

As individuals, we all need to take steps to develop the services we offer to improve the lives and aspirations of all children and young people. This is the focus of Listen Up.

Listen Up was established in April 2020 after years of debates, discussions and a growing feeling of frustration. As practitioners and researchers we have both witnessed the experiences of individuals from minoritised and marginalised communities being relegated to a footnote, separated and left behind in research, policy and practice. Comments such as ‘…Disabled children, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic children and those who identify as LGBT may face additional barriers in…’ These statements are all too often accepted as the norm in published text, research and policy.

Listen Up was born out the need for an approach that specifically focuses on amplifying and prioritising lesser heard voices.

Whilst there are recognised and respected organisations already working in this space, they frequently specialise on a particular aspect of a person’s identity or need. While we agree with the importance of such work, at Listen Up we also see the significance of recognising the unique experiences of all children and young people and how their individual and intersecting identities can influence how they experience the world. This is why Listen Up is founded in intersectional and systemic thinking.

“Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there. Many times, that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all these things.”

(Crenshaw, 2018)

Listen Up is dedicated to improving our understanding and response to all children and young people in safeguarding settings. We will achieve this by working together with partner agencies to improve service delivery; by conducting research that focuses on lesser heard voices and experiences and by challenging the status quo.

Over the next 12 months we will be publishing blogs, journal articles, a chapter in a book and our very own book too. All of which will add to the conversation. We are also looking forward working with local and national partners to develop responses that put inclusivity at the centre of their work and tackle racism, discrimination and bias.

We sincerely hope that you will join us on this journey and commit to taking action and getting involved. If you want to learn more about Listen Up and be a part of the change, please sign up to our quarterly newsletter.

Jahnine and Nick

Founders and Directors of Listen Up