5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making
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- Formal Mechanisms of Consultation
- Information on the extent of youth participation
- Large-scale initiatives for dialogue or debate between public institutions and young people
At national level, a number of Government departments and state agencies have since 2000 developed national policies, strategies, plans, sets of standards and frameworks that name the participation of children and young people in decision-making as a key objective with accompanying commitments.
- National Play Policy: Ready, Steady, Play (2019)
- National Recreation Policy for Young People: Teenspace (2018)
- National Action Plan for Social Inclusion (2007-2016)
- The Agenda for Children’s Services (2007)
- Report of the Taskforce on Active Citizenship (2007)
- National Strategy for Service User Involvement in the Irish Health Service (2008-2013)
- National Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027
- National Drugs Strategy (Interim) 2009-2016
- Steering Group Report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy, February 2012
- An Garda Síochána Children and Young Person’s Strategy 2012-2014
- Youth Café Best Practice and Toolkit
- Ireland’s National Traveler/Roma Integration Strategy, 2011
- National Strategy for Research and Data on Children’s Lives, 2011-2016
- Youth Justice Action Plan: Tackling Youth Crime, 2014-2018
- National Policy Framework for Children and Young People: Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, 2014-2020
- National Framework for Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making, 2021.
The National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision Making (2015-2020) builds on the National Children’s Strategy’s infrastructure for children and young people’s participation. The National Framework for Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making was also launched 2021.
Citizen Participation Unit
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DECDIY) has a dedicated Citizen Participation Unit, which takes the lead and national role in ensuring that ‘children have a voice on matters that affect their lives and their views will be given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity’. The work of the Participation unit is guided by Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and is directed by the belief that children and young people are the citizens of today and not just the adults of tomorrow.
The work of this Unit is responsible for much of the progress achieved under Goal 1 of the National Children’s Strategy through the development of effective structures for children’s participation in decision-making, conducting consultations and dialogues with children and young people, and the development of evidence-based policy in keeping with national and international best practice.
The DCEDIY funds and oversees the local child and youth councils (Comhairle na nÓg), the national youth parliament (Dáil na nÓg) and the Children and Young People’s Participation Support Team. The DCEDIY has established an effective mechanism for collaboration with academic institutions on children’s participation. The local child and youth councils, the national youth parliament are described in Chapter 5.3 Youth representation bodies.
Children and Young People’s Participation Support Team
The DCEDIY Children and Young People’s Participation Support Team includes:
- staff from the DCEDIY Citizen Participation Unit;
- three regional Participation Officers and;
- a Children’s Participation Administrator from Foróige and Youth Work Ireland, who are contracted by the DCEDIY.
DCEDIY Children and Young People’s Participation Support Team works on building and developing best practice, conducting participation initiatives and supporting existing participation structures.
The regional Participation Officers have a particular role in supporting the work of Comhairle na nÓg and Dáil na nÓg through:
- providing support, advice and training for organisers of Comhairle na nÓg;
- conducting regional networking sessions for young members of Comhairle na nÓg;
- conducting regional networking and development sessions for adult organisers of Comhairle na nÓg;
- working with the DCEDIY in overseeing expenditure under the DCEDIY Comhairle na nÓg Development Fund.
Children and Young People’s Participation Hub
Hub na nÓg (Youth Hub) is a national centre of excellence and coordination in the area of youth participation. The DCEDIY committed to the establishment of a national Hub to support implementation of the National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision Making (2015-2020) (Department of Children and Youth Affairs, 2015).
Hub na nÓg supports Government Departments, State agencies and non-government organisations to give children and young people a voice in decision-making on issues that affect their lives, with a particular focus on those that are seldom heard.
The key objectives of the Hub are to:
- champion and promote participation
- create resources and training materials
- conduct training
- document and disseminate learning
- establish an online children’s participation database.
The vision for the Participation Hub includes the establishment by the DCEDIY of strategic formal partnerships with organisations and initiatives in the statutory and non-statutory sectors to develop and document innovative best practice in children and young people’s participation in decision-making.
Children and Young People’s Participation Research Advisory Group
The DCEDIY Children and Young People’s Participation Research Advisory Group was established in 2013. Its aims are:
- to explore mechanisms for the DCEDIY to collaborate with academics and researchers in documenting children’s participation initiatives, led and carried out by the DCEDIY, and;
- to develop education and training on children’s participation.
The group is comprised of officials from the DCEDIY Citizen Participation Unit and the Research Unit, together with senior academics from third-level institutions with expertise in children’s rights and children and young people’s participation in decision-making.
The role of the Advisory Group is:
- to support the DCEDIY in finding suitable academic collaborators to write up and co-author the participation initiatives of the DCEDIY;
- to support the DCEDIY in developing education and training materials;
- to collaborate with the DCEDIY in building a strong evidence base for children’s participation in decision-making.
Rural Youth Assembly
The Rural Youth Assembly is made up of young people in rural Ireland to identify. It exists to identify and influence policy issues that impact on them and their futures. It is intended for the Rural Youth Assembly to meet annually. Ireland's first Ireland’s first Rural Youth Assembly was ran in 2021 and included 12- to 18-year-olds. Since then it has been extended to include 12- to 24-year-olds.
The key youth actors involved in consultative processes are young people from Comhairle na nÓg (child and youth councils). However, young people are generally recruited to be involved in consultations based on the theme on the consultation. For example, young people who have been adopted were recruited to participate in consultations on adoption policy conducted by the DCEDIY.
The DCEDIY Citizen’s Participation Unit collaborates with other Government departments, statutory bodies and non-governmental organisations in providing opportunities for children and young people to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives, with a strong focus on ensuring participation by seldom- heard children and young people.
Information on the numbers of young people consulted as part of consultations are recorded in youth consultation reports.
Since July 2017, Hub na nÓg and the Participation Support Team is working with The DCEDIY in planning and conducting consultations with children and young people on various issues such as the layout of the new Children’s Court and the voice of the child in adoption proceedings. The outcomes of these consultations resulted in young people having a direct input into policymaking.
The DCEDIY have conducted many consultations with young people on behalf of themselves and other government departments and bodies in recent years including:
- Consultations with young people into youth mental health and well-being in Ireland on behalf of the Youth Mental Health Taskforce
- Consultations with young people on the implications of Brexit on behalf of the Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister)
- Consultations on the inclusion of Children and Young People in the Recruitment of the Ombudsman for Children
- Consultations with Children and Young People about Human Rights in Ireland in advance of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on behalf of the Department of Justice and Equality
- Consultations with young people concerning harmful internet communications including cyber bullying on behalf of the Law Reform Commission
- Consultations with young people on the development of the National Youth Strategy
- Consultations with Young People on Reform of the Junior Cycle on behalf of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).