Children and young people's right to participate

A collection of essays, published today by the National Children's Bureau, looks at how children and young people can actively participate in the development of government policy and legislation, and how professionals, such as social workers, nursery staff, and researchers, can involve them in their work. The essays underline why children's opinions matter and the impact that their insights can provide.

The essays in Involving Children and Young People in Policy, Practice and Research showcase innovative examples of participation, where even those children and young people that are the most challenging to engage with have been given a voice. These include:

  • A project that empowered disadvantaged young black people to use cameras to document their life-stories and experiences.  
  • How the Young Children's Voices Network has applied the principle of listening to young children within early years services.
  • How young people, including those with complex health needs, have acted as co-researchers and advisors at the NCB Research Centre.

The publication explores the ethical issues in involving children and young people in research, considering how to recruit children and seek their consent, and the role of incentives and rewards for their participation. There is also a review of how the notion of the 'child' has been constructed by sociologists and psychologists, looking at how the imbalance of power in the relationship between the child and a researcher is played out.

Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children's Bureau said:

'Just because every adult was a child, does not mean that adults automatically understand children's lives. Researchers, practitioners and policy makers should give children the means to share their experiences and ideas, to give their work relevance and uncover hidden viewpoints and emerging issues. To get this right requires thought and effort, but the validity of children and young people insights make it vital we acknowledge their right to have a say.'

'This series of essays draws on both practical examples and theoretical studies to support the active participation of children in matters that relate to them. We hope it will inspire all those who work with children and young people to collaborate more closely with them, and will help overcome the challenges in making this an integral part of how we work.'

Rebecca Nyame-Satterthwaite (aged 14), Young NCB Member, said:

'Children and young people make up approximately twenty per cent of the population of the UK. Such a large amount of people have the right to be listened to, especially as we are the future generation who will live with the consequences. We are often affected by policies and research either directly, for example in regards to education, or indirectly, through our parents and communities, so young people and children deserve to be involved and have a strong motivation to help as much as possible.'