Participation means listening to children and taking their views meaningfully into account. All children should be supported to freely express their opinion; they should be both heard and listened to. Their views should be taken seriously when decisions or actions are taken that affect their lives directly or indirectly (as guaranteed by Article 12 of the UNCRC).
Participation can take place in different forms, appropriate to different circumstances. Children should be supported to take part in decisions that contribute to their lives, shape the services they use and the communities in which they live. Children should be encouraged to openly share their views, wishes and feelings and receive appropriate information and support on how to achieve this.
Practical ways for services to put the principle of participation into practice
- Recognise that there are different levels of participation, relevant to different circumstances. A participation strategy supported by a robust children’s rights impact assessment (link) will help guide the service on embedding of this principle.
- Include a clear commitment to participation of children in all significant policies, proposals and service developments;
- Provide a platform for children’s voices to be reflected in in all areas of practice that affect the child’s life.
- Provide opportunities for children and young people to be listened to. Tools and exercises can help structure this but so can spending time doing an activity with a child or young person, or simply going for a walk together.
- If a child or young person is finding it difficult to express their views as part of your assessment or routine contact with them, ask them how they’d like to be heard. Some might prefer to write down or video/audio record their views, perhaps with the help of a foster carer, parent or teacher. Remember to offer an advocate too.
Yovo and Lleisiau Bach/Little Voices
YoVo, the Neath Port Talbot children in care youth council are a group of young people who meet up to improve the lives of children and young people in care. With the support of adults from Neath Port Talbot Council and the Children’s Rights Unit, Yovo worked with Lleisiau Bach/Little Voices project at Swansea University to learn about their rights and issues they wanted to work on.
As a group of care experienced young people, they highlighted the importance of having information about foster placements. They want to ensure every child and young person going into foster care receives a booklet full of information and pictures of their new home, foster carers and other information, this will help children and young people during a difficult time be aware of their rights.
We worked with adults to make this happen and created this booklet and we’ve been told these Information booklets will be completed by all foster carers and given to children and young people, the booklets will be updated regularly and Social Workers will make sure booklets are keep up to date.
Mess up the Mess Case Study
Learn more about how Mess up the Mess encourage participation:
This project supported young people to access a range of rights in a fun and accessible way these include –
Article 12 – The right to be listened to
Article 28/29 – Right to education and reach their full potential
Article 15 – right to meet with friends and join groups
Article 31- right to relax and play
These packs were created in collaboration with the amazing Care Experienced young people of Swansea, Swansea Children’s Services Team and Mess Up The Mess Theatre Company, as part of a Well Iawn project funded by the The National Lottery Community Fund. We were in the midst of Covid19 lock-down, when Mess Up The Mess had the pleasure to meet the wonderful group of young people who are in the care system. We did this over Zoom meetings – a very different way of working but we still had a lot of fun.
We asked the young people what is affecting their and others well being. They said they were missing connection and how it is vital that in the future we start connecting with friends and family more. They also said it needed to involve food!!! This is how the pack was created. We worked with a talented team of artists, and cake designers to make the young people’s vision come true. The young people have been vital to designing this pack from start to finish
These are set of activity packs for you, your friends or colleagues to have fun, bake together, play together, laugh and connect. Be that with someone in person or connect through technology. There is a tasty recipe, fun activities and beautiful decorations for you to make at home; to make your time together feel extra special.
You can download these packs by visiting their page:
Monmouthshire Children’s Services Participation Strategy for Children and Young People
This Participation Strategy from Monmouthshire’s Children’s Services is an excellent example of how services are embedding the principle of participation into their ways of working. We have chosen to share this best case example as it;
- Has a bold commitment to rights;
- Plans to strategically embed children’s views into all elements of children’s services – planning, policies, commissioning, reviewing;
- Aims to be collaborative, for children to be valued, respected and in control;
- It reflects on the different degrees of participation and the many ways in which children can be included and asked for views – no ‘one size fits all approach’
- Focuses on the importance of children being informed;
- Sets out a strong message that all children should know how their views can affect decisions about their life and services.
We plan to stay in touch with Monmouthshire, to learn about how this strategy has been put into practice. We’ll be keen to find out what difference this has made to children and young people’s experiences of services.