Over 100 children and young people attend Youth Voice Matters Conference 2024

NCB family member the Council for Disabled Children hosted the sixth annual Youth Voice Matters Conference for disabled children and young people and / or those with special educational needs.

In February 2024, National Children's Bureau family member the Council for Disabled Children (CDC) hosted the sixth annual Youth Voice Matters Conference in Birmingham. Over 110 disabled children and young people, and children and young people with special educational needs, from across England came together to develop their participation skills and to recognise the impact they can have when taking part in strategic participation.

This event is held as part of the Department for Education (DfE) funded national programme Making Participation Work. Youth Voice Matters is a conference with a difference – designed and delivered by young people for young people. Children and young people’s right to participate is enshrined in law.

Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that all children and young people have a right to be heard in decisions that affect them, and to take part in decision-making. Clause 19 of the Children and Families Act 2014 introduces principles around how disabled children and young people and/or those with special educational needs participate in decisions around their support and care. 

At CDC, we believe children and young people have a right to be heard and that their role in decision making about their lives should go further than the legal minimum requirement. The event was created to give young people a space to develop their confidence and their participation skills, to highlight the different ways to speak with decision-makers, and share examples of what can happen when young people realise their collective power.

This year our theme was Action, chosen by the children and young people’s advisory group to the DfE, FLARE. Building upon previous events where workshops have explored what strategic participation can look like and how young people can develop the skills they need to have their voices heard, this year focused on how we can put that learning into practice. FLARE had a key role in co-designing the day, from the workshops to a range of activities on offer (including networking opportunities and a photobooth).

The FLARE group led a workshop where delegates collaboratively and creatively set out their priorities in health, education, social care, and our community. Participants considered the changes they wanted to see in the SEND system at the local and national level, and the ideas and suggestions produced will be published as a digital zine. FLARE will use this in its advisory work with the DfE to ensure it is raising the issues important to children and young people from across England in and so that the participation/youth groups involved can use these priorities to shape their own agendas.

FLARE Manifesto

FLARE's workshop - Create Our Youth Voice Manifesto

A second workshop led by FLARE explored how delegates, independently and in their participation/youth groups, can develop their own campaigns. The workshop broke down a campaign into separate steps, using the example of campaigning on the wider use of empowering language, and allowed delegates to develop the tools they need to build their own campaigns on the issues important to them.

FLARE Campaign Workshop

FLARE's workshop - Build a Campaign on Empowering Language

CDC's Making Participation Work partner, KIDS, delivered a workshop on transitions and provided the opportunity for delegates to feed into the DfE's work. RE-STAR’s Youth Researchers shared insights on how children and young people can be involved in research, and Coram Voice explored children’s rights and how we can exercise these.

FLARE workshop

Inside the FLARE workshop on manifesto creation

FLARE member Sam, Director of CDC and NCB's Strategic Director of Practice and Programmes Amanda Allard, and NCB Chief Executive Anna Feuchtwang chaired the day. Sam shared an empowering speech on this year’s theme of action.

The theme of this year’s conference is Action. It’s so important for us, as young people, to feel empowered to take action to change and improve things for our future. However, it’s not always easy.

It takes a lot of energy to speak up about all of the things that need improving for young disabled people. But, it’s all worth it when I see changes happen directly because of things I have said or campaigns I have been involved in. Many young people with disabilities, for all sorts of reasons, don’t have any opportunities to speak up for themselves. All of you here today are doing that for yourself, and on behalf of those that can’t. That is why we need to shout as loud as we can, because we are representing so many young people.


FLARE member

Sam and Anna Chairing

FLARE member Sam and NCB Chief Executive Anna Feuchtwang were co-chairs of the conference

Feedback from young people who attended the Youth Voice Matters Conference:

It changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly.

Youth Voice Matters Conference attendee

I loved everything!

Youth Voice Matters Conference attendee

Visual Minutes

Visual minutes from the plenary and evaluation sessions

Click here to read a blog from FLARE member Jacob about the day and click here to see a range of photos from the day.