How to consult children & young people
Parents of a pupil in Wales launched a legal challenge against their council who wanted to scrap all free bus services for secondary school aged children residing more than two miles from their catchment area’s school. The boy’s parents argued that the Council’s decision was unlawful as it had failed to consult with the affected children as it was required to do by law. It raises an important question: How do you consult with children and young people?
Perhaps the most difficult thing when consulting children is explaining to them what it is you’re consulting them on and how your decisions will impact them. Consultors often overlook children as being consultees which is understandable due to the reasons mentioned above, but involving them throughout your engagement and consultation exercises is incredibly valuable as children have much to offer in terms of the knowledge and experiences they have of certain issues and their own lives.
The problem we adults face in a consultation is that policy-making is very much dominated by the perspectives and interests of adults, thereby overlooking the needs and interests of the children. Although it’s not as straightforward as organising a public meeting or sending out a questionnaire to 2,000 people, there are some tips & tricks that will make consulting children and young people easier, for you AND them!
Before you start any consultation exercise with children, always ask their parents’ or guardians’ consent by either writing a clear information leaflet or by just simply speaking to them face-to-face. When dealing with different age groups, use age appropriate consultation methods – what works for 8-year olds might not necessarily work for young adolescents. For instance, ‘Picture Voting’ and ‘Hook-A-Duck’ are not really appropriate for 14-year olds so you need to ‘custom build’ a consultation methodology for each age group.
Make it fun! Remember, you need to go to them, not the other way around. Organise a fun and interactive environment that allows children to express themselves freely and to get their creativity going. Perhaps the most important piece of advice is to make every single child feel valued, and that their input is really important. Present your information in such a way so the child can take everything in and understands what it is you’re consulting on.
tCI members have full access to our Knowledgebase which is being updated regularly with loads of interesting material for you to browse through, including tips & tricks on how to consult with children and young people.