Two RSPCA projects aimed at helping personal development for young people in care are open for referrals.

The two programmes – Paws for Change and Animal Action Days – are being held at RSPCA centres in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire this month.

Paws for Change and Animal Action Days are part of the RSPCA’s ambitious new programme called Generation Kind, eight projects which focus on educating young people from all backgrounds about animal welfare and aims to reach two million children by 2030.

With Paws for Change RSPCA staff work closely with local youth support professionals and alternative provision providers to offer week-long training sessions for young people aged 14-18years. During the sessions youngsters are taught  skills like confidence, decision making and communication through empathy and compassion for animals. At the same time it gives neglected and abused dogs rescued by the RSPCA one-to-one care and training which helps them to find new homes.

Participation is by referral from social carers only. The next course is from 12 August to 15 August at RSPCA Southridge Animal Centre, in Potters Bar.

Elaine Davis, RSPCA Regional Prevention and Education Adviser who is co-ordinating the projects, said: “Paws for Change is a fantastic programme and you see a positive change in both the young person and the dog in every single incidence.

“It could be a little dog that’s not interested in people suddenly having a waggy tail and being pleased to see someone to a young person that doesn’t make eye contact with you but by the end of the course is chatting away about the dog that they’ve been training.

“And these things may seem quite small but they can actually be really big and have a lasting impact on the young person and the dog involved.

“From the dog’s point of view, they’re out of the kennels learning useful behaviours that will help rehome them.

“What these young people have done with these dogs will really help them find homes.”

As well as the dogs benefiting from training, learning basic commands and remembering how to trust people, the youngsters who participate also benefit from learning life skills and practical animal-handling skills as well as people and communication skills and gaining confidence through the dogs.

The second programme, Animal Action Days, are one-day sessions for children aged 5-14years who are in care, as well as their carers and siblings.

Elaine said: “Many foster carers have pets in their homes and we have frequent requests for educational resources about animals from foster agencies.

“We feel there is a need to run educational activities for children to encourage positive behaviour around animals and to keep them safe around them. Occasionally, a child may display behaviour which scares or hurts an animal in the home.

“If a foster carer is worried about their animals, they may ask for the child to be moved to another placement – which can be disruptive and unsettling for a child. Avoiding these problems in the first place means that children can stay in safe and loving placements, learn about compassion towards animals and the animals stay safe too.”

During the day, the children – in small groups – are taught about animal welfare needs and feelings, and are given positive examples of how to interact with animals through different learning activities.

The Animal Action Days are being held at:

  • RSPCA Blackberry Farm, in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, on Monday 19th August

  • RSPCA Southridge, in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, on Friday 16th August

For more information, please contact Elaine on elaine.davis@rspca.org.uk.

For more information about Paws for Change and Generation Kind, and to find out what you can do at home to be #GenerationKind, visit www.rspca.org.uk/GenerationKind