[dropcap]P[/dropcap]eople working with children and young people have consulted and involved them in their work for many years. Most organisations believe that it is necessary for children and young people to make choices about their services to make sure they are delivering what children and young people say they want. Organisations have therefore encouraged children and young people to have a say in deciding on what activities should take place and how programmes should be shaped.
As time has developed there has been growing expectations from children, young people and their parents that children and young people will be formally consulted over decisions that affect their lives. This right to consultation and involvement has been recognised by the United Kingdom government through the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, especially Article 12 that states:
Children and young people have the right to say what they think should happen when adults are making decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account.
Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with age and maturity of the child.
For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided with the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of the national law.”
For a provision to work effectively children and young people need to make choices. For example if the provision is intended to be for the children and young people and they are unhappy with it, then there would be little point in them taking part.
Consulting with children and young people has great benefits for them. It can improve their self-esteem and confidence, though only if they know their ideas will be listened to. This does not mean that everything they ask for will be delivered but children and young people can work well within constraints if they are made aware of them. Explaining why things may not be able to happen is an important element of participation.
However there are also some pitfalls to involving children and young people. Consultation with children and young people that is simply to ‘tick a box’, through which children and young people are denied opportunities to develop skills and really make a difference, is meaningless. Such consultation can often have an inverse effect of discouraging children and young people to express their views if they feel their participation has neither been taken into account nor respected.
When consulting with children and young people there are two questions that should be answered before you proceed. These are:
- Who are you consulting with and
- Why are you consulting them?
By answering these questions it helps to shape:
- How you consult and involve children and young people, and
- What will come from the process for you and the children and young people involved
To view Children Play Information Services document on consulting children on play click here; Consulting Children on Play