ENYA is an annual project run by ENOC (European Network of Ombudspersons for Children) which allows young people from across Europe to work together on recommendations for children’s commissioners and governments across the continent. We have 16 young people from different parts of Wales taking part this year who are working with 16 other countries/regions on the theme ‘the Impact of COVID-19 on children’s rights’.
Effectiveness of school councils
There is a law in Wales that means all schools have to have a school council. Some school councils are an effective way to give children and young people a say in their school’s decision-making. But some schools councils are less effective. Our research shows that young people in secondary schools feel less able to participate in decision making than in other schools. This project aims to improve participation in secondary schools so that all young people in Wales experience their right to have their say. Research for this project was carried out in 2019-20 but the publication of our report has been delayed until this year because of the impact of the pandemic on schools. If you took part in the research you can find a more detailed update and resources to support you in your school by clicking on the link below.
Evaluating our impact
This year, we will be reflecting on how well we have delivered against our Three Year Strategic Plan 2019-22 and how this has helped influence change for children across Wales. In 2019, Sally set out how as an organisation, we wanted to help Wales become a country where rights are a reality and where children are given meaningful opportunities to be informed, involved citizens. We will be exploring how through our project and day to day work, we have helped work towards this goal. Our work as an organisation, like many others, has needed to adapt this year, with the Coronavirus Pandemic presenting new challenges to the way we work and engage and support children. We want to reflect on this too, and share how as an organisation, we have continued to listen to and support children during this time.
Reporting to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
Following our December 2020 report to the UN Committee about Wales/UK’s performance on children’s rights, we will work again with the other UK Children’s Commissioners, to respond to the UK and devolved Governments’ assessment of their progress. This will feed the views and experiences of Welsh children and young people into the Committee’s formal examination of the UK Government, in 2022.
Coronavirus and Us
This work will ensure we’re able to continually respond to issues relating to the pandemic. A key aim will be to ensure that Welsh Government and other public bodies pay due regard to children’s rights when forming and implementing recovery plans. The first priority for us will be to ensure a Haf o Hwyl (Summer of Fun):
Haf o Hwyl
2020-21 has been a difficult year with many of children’s everyday activities restricted. Building on this position paper we will work with the Welsh Government and other partner organisations, to support and develop new opportunities for children and young people to engage in sport, play, leisure and/or cultural activities in summer 2021 and beyond.
The Right Way
We’ll spend this year continuing to promote and encourage the use of our guide on implementing a children’s rights approach, The Right Way for a range of settings including education, health boards, social care and youth justice. Another element of the work this year will be to evaluate the impact of our Right Way guides over the last three years to determine what impact our guides have had on services and on children’s lives.
‘No wrong door’ approach
When children reach out for help with their mental health, emotional wellbeing or ‘behavioural’ issues, the response far too often does not meet their needs. Children can be sent to several different services, waiting for a long time to be seen while the distress they feel only gets worse. When they get to be seen they can even be told they have come to the wrong place after waiting a long time to be seen.
The Commissioner met with health and social care leaders, and others, in every region of Wales in 2019 and 2020 to ask what they are doing to help children with complex needs get a joined up service that meets their needs. In June 2020, we published a report: No Wrong Door – bringing services together to meet children’s needs. The report set out examples of good things happening in every region of Wales, but also found that every region needs to do lots to improve. It also tells Welsh Government the things we think they need to do better to help the regions improve.
This year, we will be meeting with all the different regions again, and asking them what they have done to give a better, more joined up service to children in their area. When we have met with all the regions of Wales we will work with them, and with Welsh Government, to make plans for how they can bring services together to properly meet children’s needs
This project will see us support parallel elections in secondary schools in Wales to coincide with 2021 Senedd election (on 6 May 2021). We want to help all young people (aged 11 – 15) to understand the context of their vote and to make sure every young person feels part of the excitement that 16 and 17 year olds will feel as they cast an actual vote for the very first time. You can read more about this work by clicking on the link below.
Planning for a new Commissioner
Sally Holland’s term as Children’s Commissioner for Wales will come to an end in April 2022. Although the recruitment process is led by Welsh Government, our focus this year will be on ensuring a smooth transition and delivering on our ambitious programme of work.
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales’ office will be moving to a new location in 2021. We have a cross-organisational project team who are working together to make sure the organisation has better value for money, reduces its impact on our planet and climate and allows more flexible ways of working for staff.