It's always a good idea to give children and young people with
experience of being in care a voice, but it's not always easy to
do. Billie Ibidun gives some pointers on how this can be done
This is a momentous time in corporate parenting and related
issues. Quality Protects, the Children Leaving Care Bill, the
Waterhouse report, Modernising Local Government, the social
inclusion agenda, the stake-holder approach, among others, have
left us all aware of the potential for lasting change in how we
look after children.
Developing meaningful and sustainable ways of involving children
and young people in the services we provide is at the heart of this
We have all been caught in different stages of readiness and
none of us can sit back and hang the "Duninvolvin'" sign over the
old corporate homestead quite yet.
Against this backdrop, how we involve young people is a complex
question. It depends on who is asking and what stage they are at
with all of the above.
The frequency with which this question occurs speaks a lot about
the need for more practical resources to help share good practice
and inform, advise and train. Many organisations are in the process
of developing resources in this direction.
This climate has also created a spate of events targeted at
children and young people in care and leaving care, based on the
broad themes of participation and involvement.
Some of them are amazing, inspiring, powerful ventures in which
the voices of children and young people are heard and acted upon.
Some, however, are not.
A National Voice is an organisation run by and for young people
from care and has an obvious interest in these events. We organise
many of them, are involved in others and are often the first port
of call for local authorities planning such events.
We still have much to learn, and we have not yet developed a
blueprint for the perfect event. However, the following is compiled
based on the generous assistance of young people and events we
organised over the past year.
- Allow enough time. Helping young people to do the work takes a
lot more time than people think.
- Work with a planning group of young people from the start.
- Support the planning group with practicalities, such as
meetings, transport and reminders, and offer to speak with carers
to explain what you are doing.
- Have focused short meetings with practical goals.
- Come with some ideas to help get things started and be prepared
to have them rejected.
- Don't reject ideas from the young people -Êconsider each
of them seriously.
- Be upfront about the available resources to support the
- Tell the young people what you want from the event, ask them
what they want and be seen to be putting equal effort into
- If one of the purposes of the event is to collect information
or consult on a particular issue, tell the young people how this
information will be used.
- Send copies of any reports, evaluations and information about
decisions arising from the event to all the young people who
- Help young people take leadership roles in the preparation of
the event itself.
- Invest in training and support for young people to do this
confidently - for example, public speaking, developing a piece of
theatre and so on.
- Choose a young person- friendly venue.
- Involve adults in support roles.
- A little apathy, suspicion, mistrust and attitude is allowed,
but not from you.
- Expect the best of young people - you might be amazed at how
often you get it. CC
Billie Ibidun is co-ordinator of advocacy organisation A
- We're always being told to listen to what young people tell us
about the services that affect them. But how exactly do we involve