Empowering young people through participation
Children and young people are central to everything we do. We provide them with opportunities to be involved in decision-making, from helping to shape new services and their own homes to interviewing new members of staff.
What is participation?
Participation is the active involvement of young people in experiences, opportunities and decisions about how to make their lives better. It gives young people the power to shape both the way they are involved and the outcomes of their involvement. These experiences boost self-esteem and equip young people with the essential transferable skills they need for the future.
Only I know what it’s like for me, other people can try to understand but only I truly know.
Young people picked five key things that they think are important for meaningful participation:
- Everyone has a say, but we have the right not to say anything too
- Be honest about how much impact our participation can and will have
- Our involvement is supported and valued by everybody
- We get involved in fun ways that actually make a difference
- Activities change and improve depending on what we are telling you about
How does participation work at St Christopher’s?
Using a social pedagogic framework in our practice means there are opportunities for young people to have their say every single day. Some of our bigger pieces of work include:
Each year we ask young people to give feedback on all parts of St Christopher’s including their homes, the staff, and whether they feel safe. We don’t do this through surveys or questionnaires – instead, we work together with young people to come up with a better way of collecting their thoughts. Usually this is an inclusive group activity so we can have fun along the way, like going to a trampoline park or making art work for young people’s homes.
Young people help draft job descriptions for key roles and sit on interview panels for staff at all levels in all areas of the organisation. Their contributions are given equal weighting to those of the staff and they provide really useful insights into what skills and qualities are important for working with young people.
Young people are involved in designing new services from the very start. In every service they have a say over activities in the home, the weekly menu and the décor.
We support young people to share their views on issues that affect them in the wider world. Every two months young people take part in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children. Some young people sit on local leaving care councils and others have contributed to St Christopher’s submissions to calls for evidence, like government reviews.
She described how she has grown in confidence during her stay at the home, in large part due to the encouragement given to engage in participation activities. She has taken part in a significant range of activities including staff interviewing, contributing to the development of the home and a new residential home for young women. She described these experiences as empowering and feels that participation is real and not tokenistic.