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EACEA National Policies Platform


5. Participation

5.1 General context

Last update: 27 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 13/10/2020

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  1. Main concepts
  2. Institutions of representative democracy


Main concepts

The Welsh Government (WG) has formally adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as the basis of all its work with and for children and young people. Article 12 of the UNCRC sets out the right of children and young people to express an opinion and to have that opinion taken into account on any matter that affects them. 

Article 12 of the UNCRC affirms that:

‘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.’

In practice, this involves an emphasis on consulting young people and encouraging their involvement in local democratic processes and decision making.

In 2004, the Participation Project in the Welsh Assembly Government ran a competition to produce a national definition of participation that would be easy to understand for adults and young people. The winning definition was:

“Participation means that it is my right to be involved in making decisions, planning and reviewing an action that might affect me. Having a voice, having a choice.”

This was the definition used in a research report commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government and published in 2010 entitled Children and Young People’s Participation in Wales.

Regarding the participation of young people, the National Youth Work Strategy for Wales 2019 states:

While we must give important consideration to issues such as rurality and location of services, youth work must also be accessible and inclusive in a wider sense to all young people. It should reflect the range of diverse backgrounds, identities, experiences, and needs of young people in Wales. Youth work must, therefore, proactively remove barriers to engagement and participation, ensuring it is accessible to all, and particularly to those young people who may have experience of isolation, marginalisation, exploitation, or discrimination, including those with a protected characteristic. This requires us to rethink our approaches to deliver an accessible, active offer, no matter the access point.

The strategy aims for youth work to: 

  • be recognised for its value and impact by individuals, charitable trusts, public sector commissioners and services at all levels
  • play an active, established role in informing and implementing services for young people across a range of policy areas/programmes of work
  • draw on a robust evidence base that can be used to inform and influence approaches for working with, and securing outcomes for, young people 
  • have opportunities to celebrate its work and engage in discussion with the public and politicians about the impact of its approaches.


The Wales Charter for Youth Work sets out the Welsh Government’s minimum expectation for youth work to young people across Wales. It states that all young people will be entitled to easy access through the medium of English or Welsh to opportunities to participate in decision-making via informal and formal structures for youth engagement locally and nationally and to opportunities to be civic activists.

Institutions of representative democracy

Wales is a constituent part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain (Scotland, England and Wales) and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and the Sovereign is head of state and head of government.

The power to make and pass legislation on what are termed 'reserved' matters (such as defence and foreign policy) belongs to the UK Parliament. The UK Parliament consists of:

  • the Sovereign (currently the Queen) in Parliament
  • the appointed or hereditary House of Lords
  • the publicly elected House of Commons.

The House of Commons is the lower house, where most of the work of Parliament is conducted. It is composed of 650 elected members, known as Members of Parliament (MPs), 40 of whom represent Welsh constituencies. Note, however, that a review of parliamentary constituencies is currently underway; proposals include reducing the number of elected members in the House of Commons to 600, with Wales being allocated 29 seats out of these. In September 2018, the Boundary Commission for Wales submitted their final recommendations report for the 2018 Review of Parliamentary Constituencies in Wales, to the Minister for the Cabinet Office. More information can be found on the Boundary Commission for Wales website.

The first-past-the-post system, a simple plurality system in which each constituency across the UK returns one MP, is used to elect MPs to the House of Commons and the closed party list system is used to elect Members of the European Parliament.

Certain powers and responsibilities have been devolved to elected bodies in Wales. In 1999, a new National Assembly was established as a single corporate body under which the executive (the Government) and the legislature (the Assembly) operated. Since 2006, there have been separate bodies, the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government. While Welsh Assembly Government remains the statutory name, since May 2011 this body has been known as the Welsh Government.

These two bodies have legislative and executive responsibility respectively for a wide range of devolved matters, including youth services, education, training, sport and recreation and local government.

The National Assembly for Wales is a body of 60 elected Members:

  • 40 Assembly Members (AMs) represent the constituencies of Wales - the local areas. They are elected by the first-past-the-post system, where the candidate with the greatest number of votes wins.
  • 20 Assembly Members represent the five regions of Wales. They are elected by a form of proportional representation through regional lists.

Elections take place every five years. The last election was held on 5 May 2016.

At local government level, Wales is divided into 22 principal areas, the elected councils of which are responsible for the provision of all local government services, including education. They are collectively known as ‘local authorities’. The members of each local council, who must be aged 18 or over, are normally elected every four years, by the first-past-the-post system. The last elections were held in 2017 (rather than 2016), in order to avoid a clash with the 2016 National Assembly elections.

Voting, which is not compulsory, takes place by secret ballot at polling stations, by post or by proxy.

Further information on the systems of voting in use can be found on the UK Parliament website