Participation: Where next?

Dame Christine Lenehan and Caroline StevensAuthor Dame Christine Lenehan and Caroline StevensDate 13 Apr 2017

For the past year, CDC and KIDS have been co-delivering a young people’s participation project, ‘Making Participation Work’ which aims to enable disabled children and young people and young people with SEN to be better involved in strategic decision-making.

With the news that the project will be extended for a further year, CDC Director Dame Christine Lenehan and KIDS CEO Caroline Stevens reflect on the achievements of ‘Making Participation Work’ and what needs to happen next.

Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of CDC

“The heart of the work of the Council for Disabled Children is ensuring better outcomes for children who have SEN and /or disability. From my own history working with children and young people this has often been measured by the journey towards citizenship; how many young people can access a good education, an active community life, friendships and fun and a childhood that leads to the most independent adulthood?

I have had the pleasure of co- chairing three national conferences on young people’s participation and hearing their stories first hand. The conferences demonstrated superbly the clear, strong voice that young disabled people bring and the difference they can make to the world around them. Listening to Hertfordshire’s young commissioners, young people who had been inspecting local provision and working alongside professionals to ensure change and joining a workshop run by young people and KIDS to get professionals to understand the reality of coproduction were two great examples.

The goal of the Making Participation Work programme is to show, the real value of young people’s engagement at all stages of the delivery of the SEND reforms. Hopefully, one day we will not need to do it because as parent carer engagement has become an embedded part of practice, young people’s engagement should also follow suit.

So what stops is it happening? Well in our survey of professionals this year we found time capacity, knowledge and money were the main factors. These are common threads, but there are also creative ideas like understanding the world of digital communications to support young people, building on work in schools and working with children in care councils These examples need to be backed by targeted support to reach the widest representation.These forums and the developing role of SENDIASS services in working with young people could provide the basis for strategic engagement. But, couldn’t building this in as part of Joint commissioning also be helpful? As we develop integration between services, we need to develop this with young people at the heart of them.

Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive of KIDS

"Since the start of ‘Making Participation Work’ KIDS Young People’s Participation (YPP) teams have had a busy year devising and delivering participation workshops to local authorities.

Each Local Authority that has approached us is at a different point in their young people’s participation work. Whether that be enabling their young people’s groups to deliver training to professionals, setting up young people’s groups or developing participation strategies, we have tailored our training to fit their needs.

In addition to this, our teams have supported peer-to-peer models amongst LAs as well as collecting case studies of good practice

As Chief Executive of KIDS, it has been great for me to see the YP develop their confidence, self- esteem and skills, all of which will really help them in their future careers. One of our young people Tabby is now a KIDS employee running the Hampshire Young People’s Engagement Group

We couldn’t have delivered this training without our 22 young trainers. This project has only highlighted how important it is to listen to young people’s voices and act upon their opinions and experiences. I am pleased that ‘Making Participation Work’ will continue for another year, allowing KIDS and CDC the opportunity to build on the work we have already done. It will allow us to see the long term difference and impact that our participation work has had in practice, and help us help new areas too."

From this, we can gather that young people’s individual participation is moving in the right direction, but there is still a way to go with ensuring young people can participate in strategic level decisions. This is because the processes are not accessible. But we also need to think about how we set up mechanisms to ensure that young people’s individual views and wishes can inform and influence strategic participation. You can see the steps CDC and Kids are taking to mitigate this here