Participation is one of the Children’s Commissioner’s core values. We make sure children and young people’s views and experiences inform and influence what we think, say and do.
We also encourage others to do the same, this includes:
- individuals, like parents and carers or support workers
- groups, like youth groups
- organisations, like schools
- services, like social care or health care
- local governments
- the Government.
Our approach to involving children and young people is founded on Article 12 of the UNCRC which says that all children and young people have a right to have their views heard on the decisions that affect their lives and have the right to be taken seriously.
We make sure we engage and involve children and young people in ways that they value and that are clear to them, so we:
- share with them the information they need to help them think about their views and experiences
- create safe and supportive climates that help them to share their views and experiences
- explore with them and make clear what is possible and what is not possible
- give them feedback on how we have heard and understood them and the difference it has made
- thank them for their time and views and in ways that contribute to their learning and personal development
Read our Participation Strategy.
Who do we involve in our participation work?
We listen and learn from children and young people:
- from all parts of England
- from and with, different backgrounds, genders, abilities, disabilities, ages, experiences, interests, sexual orientations, ethnic origins and races, faiths, religions or beliefs.
In this way we recognise children and young people as individuals with multiple identities and not just belonging to a group.
In addition we make a real effort to engage and involve children and young people:
- who live away from home or receive support from social care services
- who may face discrimination or be less heard or more vulnerable.
Some of the ways we involve children and young people in our work are…
1. Our research
Our research is founded on what children and young people tell us. We make sure we listen and learn from children and young people, either individually or in groups, who have experience or knowledge of particular issues. Their views inform our decision-making and recommendations.
2. Our young people advisory groups
Amplify – this is the Children’s Commissioner’s advisory group of 30 young people aged from 11 to 18 years. Amplify has three whole group meetings a year and smaller groups meet to advise us or work on specific issues.
Young Amplify – this is a series of regional groups across England for children aged from 7 to 11 years. There are currently groups in London, East Midlands, North East and South West. There are about 18-20 children in each regional group. Young Amplify work on lots of different projects.
Young Expert Groups – we engage and involve children and young people who, either through their interest or expertise, help us with specific projects or work. We have two Young Expert Groups: one for children with care experience and one for our communications work.
3. Our Participation Network
This is made up of organisations, services and groups that directly work with children and young people and promote Article 12. It includes schools, colleges, youth groups, children in care councils and voluntary and community organisations. We make sure we work with groups that support disabled children and young people, those seeking asylum or who have been in trouble with the law.
4. Recruiting staff and making decisions about buying or ordering services
Children and young people from Amplify, Young Amplify or organisations in our Participation Network are involved in recruiting our permanent staff and also commissioning goods and services.
5. Making sure we communicate appropriately
We always make sure our communication with children and young people is relevant and appropriate. We use methods of communication which children can understand including producing versions of our reports specifically for children and young people.
Why is children and young people’s involvement important?
1. The UNCRC affords children and young people the right to be involved in decisions which affect them. They have a right to have their views listened to and taken seriously.
2. Children and young people have a unique perspective on their own life and the lives of other children and young people. Listening and learning from them will make sure we:
- challenge any assumptions and stereotypes on who they are and what they need
- better understand their lives and what might help improve things for them and others.
3. The genuine involvement of children and young people in decision-making can increase their confidence, relationships, aspirations and their role as active citizens. It can help to build trust with adults.
4. Children and young people are key to coming up with new and helpful ways to improve their own and other children’s lives.
Upcoming work in 2014/15
- Work programme: we will continue with our work programme but will look to review it in line with our new 5 Year Plan (to be published July 2015).
- Young advisory groups: We will continue to support our young people advisory groups, Amplify and Young Amplify, and their work.
- Participation network: We will build and strengthen relationships in our Participation Network. This includes supporting the National Participation Forum.
- Programme of visits: We will develop and support a programme of visits to children in care and different care settings across England.
- Young Expert Groups: We will continue to develop two Young Expert Groups. These will specifically include children living away from home or in receipt of social care services.
- Work placement: We will continue to recruit and support young people on short term work placements at the Children's Commissioner's office.
If anyone wants to find out more about our participation appraoch and work, please email us.