Over the last three weeks my team and I have had the chance to talk to hundreds of children and young people and hear their ideas on what matters to them and what they want me to speak out about on their behalf.
Lots of them have told me what they would do if they were children’s commissioner.
- I have held workshops with over 150 Super Ambassadors from around 60 primary schools in Margam Park and Llandinum. Super Ambassadors are my elected ambassadors who promote children’s rights in their primary schools.
- I listened to a group of disabled teenagers in Blaenau Gwent who have been helped by Barnardos to take part in their communities.
- My team and I met hundreds of children and young people at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Nelson, Caerphilly where they drew or answered questions on an iPad about what mattered most to them.
- I visited St Teilo’s School in Tenby to hear about how they have transformed their journeys to school by finding ways to walk, scooter and bike more safely.
These conversations have given me lots of ideas about what matters most to children and young people. One thing that has really stood out for me has been about feeling safe when out and about.
Children are more likely to be pedestrians than adults and are also (due to their height) a lot closer to the ground! They notice and feel things that adults might not notice, like rubbish, broken glass, dog mess, unattended dogs, needles, and graffiti.
Children have talked to me about all of these things, as well as not liking to walk past crowds of smokers and sometimes fights outside pubs. The biggest risk to children out and about is traffic and children have told me about wanting cars to slow down outside their schools but in fact a bigger fear children talked about was the rarer risk of stranger danger. Younger children have been talking to me about fears of being snatched, while older girls have talked about harassment such as comments about their appearance.
Children and young people have a right to move around their communities safely. They will be happier and healthier if they feel safe to play outside and travel on foot or bike.
Our challenge is to make communities in Wales safer for children and here are some practical ways we can move in that direction:
- Involve children and young people in planning cycle and walking routes (under the Active Travel Act 2013)
- When building new schools, housing estates and regeneration of town centres plan safe, shared play space and cycle routes
- Increase use of 20 mph zones where children are travelling and playing
- Pubs, shops and takeaways keep the streets around them litter-free.
- Adults be prepared to offer help if a child or young person needs it when out and about.