Children and young people's views
What is participation?
Participation is when people are given the opportunity to express their views effectively and for those views to be listened to and taken account of. It is about being involved in and influencing decision making on matters that affect you. There are a huge variety of ways that children and young people can participate, such as at one-off consultation events, through school councils, by completing surveys, or by becoming a member of an organisation such as the Youth Parliament.
Why is it important?
Participation is a right. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that it is the right of children and young people to express their views in relation to matters that affect them and to have those views taken into account. Not only do children and young people benefit from being involved in decision-making but also organisations and services that involve children and young people will benefit from their involvement. Children and young people may gain new skills and confidence and make a real difference in something that matters to them. Agencies may gain a better understanding of what makes an effective service for children and young people or will build stronger relationships with the young people they work with.
In recent years increasing attention has been given to the rights of children and young people to have their views heard and taken account of. Debates in the Scottish Parliament regularly refer to the need to consult with children and young people over national policy issues while legislation has increasingly given children and young people rights to participate in decision-making and the planning of services.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (1989)
The UNCRC (1989) was ratified by the UK in 1991. Article 12.1 gives children the right to express their views in relation to matters that affect them and to have account taken of these views:
States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
While children had the right to have their views heard in certain areas before 1995, this Act incorporated the principles of the UNCRC in giving children the right to express their views in a far wider range of decisions. These include: court decisions on parental responsibilities, local authority decisions for ‘looked after’ children, and certain decisions made by courts and children’s hearings. The Act states:
Due regard should be given to children’s views, subject to their age and maturity. While any child has this right, children aged 12 or over are presumed to have sufficient age and maturity.
Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc Act 2000.
This legislation gave children and young people in Scotland additional rights to have their views heard in matters relating to their education. The Act means that children’s views now hold statutory significance in education decisions and contains the general principle:
an education authority shall have due regard, so far is reasonably practicable, to the views (if there is a wish to express them) of the child or young person in decisions that significantly affect that child or young person, taking account of the child or young person’s age and maturity.
In addition the Act placed specific duties on education authorities to take account of pupil’s views in relation to the Education Improvement Objectives and the School Development Plan that form part of the Improvement Framework. It also gave pupils of age 12 and over the right to appeal against school exclusions whereas before this right only applied to those of 16 years or over or parents.
Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils’ Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002
This Act requires local authorities, amongst others, to produce accessibility strategies aimed at improving access to education for pupils with disabilities. The guidance which accompanies this legislation places an obligation on local authorities to consult with children and young people in the development of these strategies.
For more information see Access All Areas.
girl at school desk (image)