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LAST MODIFIED ON: 13/10/2020
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Formal Mechanisms of Consultation
The United Kingdom is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). 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.
The Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 places a duty on Welsh Ministers to have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Article 12 of the UNCRC relates to children and young people’s right to participate and have a say when adults are making decisions that affect them, and have their opinions taken into account.
The Welsh Government's Programme for Children and Young People sets out the 7 Core Aims for the safety and well-being of children and young people in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and forms the basis for decisions on priorities and objectives nationally. Core Aim 5 (participation in decision making) describes the rationale, key programmes and policies behind giving all children and young people in Wales a voice. It ‘requires that all children and young people are listened to’ by public bodies.
The main national mechanism for enabling the participation of young people is the Young Wales project, which is funded by Welsh Government and facilitated by Children in Wales. Young Wales is the national participation platform which focuses on gathering the opinions of children and young people to inform Welsh Government legislation, policy and programmes. Young Wales provides young people as individuals, as well as through schools, youth forums and national organisations, with opportunities to share their opinions, activities and ideas.
Young Wales and their partners work with a wide range of marginalised groups, such as looked after children, young carers, disabled groups and travellers. In addition, regional workers are linked into mainstream areas of provision for young people, including youth forums, primary and secondary schools. Young Wales includes a digital participation hub which highlights core participation services and materials, and maintain links to all 22 of the local authority youth forums.
There are seven national participation standards that organisations working with children and young people are expected to meet. These standards, listed below and further expanded in a Good Practice Guide, are intended to promote participation by children and young people in making decisions, planning and reviewing any action that will affect them – and to ensure children and young people have a positive experience of such participation:
- Information - You have the right to information that is easy to understand and allows you to make an informed decision.
- It’s Your Choice - You have the right to choose to be involved and work on things that are important to you.
- No Discrimination - Children and young people are all different and have the right to be treated fairly.
- Respect - You have the right to have a say. Your opinions are important and will be respected.
- You get something out of it - You have the right to learn and be the best you can be. You will have opportunities to work with others and make a difference. We want you to be involved in positive experiences.
- Feedback - You have the right to know what differences you have made and how your ideas have been listened to.
- Working better for you - Those who make decisions that affect children and young people should put children’s rights at the centre of everything they do.
The standards, developed originally by the Participation Unit, were refreshed in 2016 by a partnership between Youth Forum workers and Young Wales, informed by consultations with young people. A Participation Standards Self-Assessment pack was published to accompany the original standards and a revised guidance is due.
Section 12 of the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 places a statutory duty on local authorities to make arrangements to promote and facilitate participation by children and young people in the decisions which might affect them and to publish information about these arrangements. This is to ensure children and young people have opportunities for their views to be heard and to be involved in decisions which affect their lives at the local level, in line with Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (see above).
Participation guidance is issued under section 17 of the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010. The Statutory Guidance for Children and Young People Participation is published in an annex to the third part (SPSF3) of Shared Purpose – Shared Future: Statutory Guidance on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
To meet the statutory requirements, local authorities are expected to work with relevant partners to do the following:
- Promote and facilitate children and young people's participation within the broad context of the UNCRC, as part of their policies, services and wider citizen engagement. Local authorities are expected to make sure as many children and young people as possible are aware of their rights as set out in the UNCRC - including their right to participate and for their opinion to be heard, and to be involved in decision-making about policies and services which affect their lives.
- Embed children and young people's participation into all aspects of planning, delivering and reviewing services. This includes the assessment of local well-being, the local well-being plan and relevant sub plans.
- Adopt the (refreshed) National Participation Standards. Support for the National Participation Standards reinforces the commitment to children’s rights in Wales and there are many examples of good practice by organisations which have adopted the standards as a means of ensuring participation happens meaningfully and effectively. The expectation is that all local authorities will adopt the Standards as part of efforts to meet their statutory duty regarding participation of children and young people.
- Publish information about the benefits of and arrangements for promoting and facilitating participation in the authority, and disseminating examples of good practice - for instance through websites and newsletters as well as social media and linking in/working with Young Wales. Children and young people themselves can be actively involved in raising awareness of the importance of participation. The Welsh Government has many resources which can support this and can be adapted to suit local needs.
- Ensure information and materials aimed at children and young people are clear and easy to understand, answer their questions and identified needs as well as being accurate, up-to-date, relevant and accessible in terms of language and format.
- Ensure a range of opportunities and the appropriate required support are provided for effective participation. The opportunities for children and young people as individuals to participate should be integrated into day to day services as well as specific participation structures - such as forums for children, forums for young people, or groups/forums which represent children and young people who are marginalised, vulnerable or have a special interest in a particular issue. These forums and groups have an important role in supporting children and young people to have a voice and to access their rights as set out in the UNCRC.
- Support a County Youth Forum/Council as a representative body of young people to act as a channel for young people’s views across their local authority and represent those views to local and national decision-making bodies. They should aim to be as inclusive as possible in terms of geographical spread, age, gender and to represent specialist needs and more marginalised young people. For County Youth Forums/Councils to operate effectively, they will need to be adequately supported by Local Authorities who should consider what support is required to do this. They should be informed and linked to their local democratic structures. They will also need to be effectively linked into national participation structures such as Young Wales, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and the National Assembly for Wales.
- Give due consideration to the Welsh language in the promotion and facilitation of participation and as part of preparing the local wellbeing plan, reflecting its official status in Wales and the national well-being goal of ‘a thriving Welsh language’.
Youth Forums are a group of young people who represent the voice of young people at the local level. They meet with their local authority to discuss issues which impact on the lives of young people, and to bring about change. LAs are responsible for deciding how their forum works; no central guidance is provided. Young Wales provides links to all of the youth forums across Wales.
The Boys' and Girls' Clubs of Wales, based in Cardiff, aims through one of its main projects to involve underrepresented youth in traditional forums in structured dialogue with politicians from different tiers of decision making. In 2016, they hosted an event named 'Not the Usual Hustings' in the run up to the Welsh Assembly election, with an audience of 100 first time voters aged between 16 and 25 from across Wales. The project is funded by Erasmus+; further information can be found about it on the Erasmus+ website. Information on their other projects can be found on their website.
Consultations may take place through the representative bodies dealt with in ‘Youth representation bodies’, but other methods are also used, including online consultations, focus groups, street interviews and surveys. The use of social media has become increasingly common in consultations, as this is regarded as a particularly suitable means of engaging young people’s interest.
Consultations are ad hoc, rather than following a fixed schedule.
The Welsh Government, local authorities, and young people themselves are involved in the youth consultation process. Moreover, one of fundamental principles of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is that all public bodies will enable involvement and participation. Many of the key actors are described above in the section on 'Formal Mechanisms of Consultation'.
Information on the extent of youth participation
There is no regulation and systematic collection of data on levels of young people's participation in policy making. However, Welsh Government officials visited all 22 local authorities to understand how the duty to promote and facilitate the participation on children and young people in decision making was being delivered. They published a report, Children and Young People’s Participation in Wales Good Practice, 2016, detailing the good practice seen on these visits by local authorities, using the national participations standards as measure.
The most comprehensive survey of young people was carried out from November 2014 to June 2015, by the National Assembly for Wales. It consulted in schools, colleges, universities and youth groups all across Wales to create a national conversation about young people’s thoughts on lowering the voting age to 16. Over 10,300 young people took part, according to the consultation report. In 2015/16, over 12,000 young people contributed directly to a variety of National Assembly for Wales Committee Inquiries. The Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill includes provisions to lower the voting age for Assembly elections to 16, and will only have effect from the Senedd general election scheduled for May 2021.
The views of children and young people are actively sought for policy making at the national and local level in Wales.
The Welsh Government's Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Monitor for Wales provides a multi-dimensional picture of children and young people’s wellbeing (aged 0 to 25) in Wales using a variety of wellbeing indicators and other statistical and research sources and is an important resource for those working on policy and programme development. One of the chapters looks at participation in decision-making and expression of identity. It’s most recent edition was published in 2015.
Consultation feedback is usually in the form of a published government response to the consultation or a commissioned analysis. Feedback on how responses will contribute to policy-making may also be provided through relevant organisations involved in the consultation. In some cases, a specific version of the response is issued for children and young people, which focuses on their participation.
Following a consultation, the Welsh Government publish responses, either in a summary or individual format, on the Welsh Government website, and hold copies in its library. Responses are made anonymous if requested too. Additionally, they publish details on how the consultation will be taken forward.
In 2019, a total of 838,288 young people voted on UK topics and 840,322 young people voted on devolved topics in the annual ‘Make Your Mark’ ballot. The ballot decides what Members of the UK Youth Parliament should debate and vote on to be their campaign for the coming year. for the coming year. See ‘Youth parliament’ for further information.
Large-scale initiatives for dialogue or debate between public institutions and young people
Children in Wales host various participative events. An example includes a Brexit Question Time in October 2018. This was designed for children and young people aged 10 to 20 to provide an opportunity to ask questions of how Brexit will impact their future to a panel of experts, including the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care and the Head of Wales’ Equality and Human Rights Commission. In 2019 Children in Wales is coordinating an event to signify the 30th year since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was created. Including young people, this event will recognise the journey that the UNCRC has been on in Wales to date, as well as looking what needs to be achieved in the future. It will include involvement from the First Minister of Wales, the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales.
In May 2020, the Welsh government launched an online survey ‘Coronavirus and Me’, open to those aged 7 to 18 to engage young people’s views to inform policy responses during the pandemic. The survey covers key themes and issues about their health, education, the impact on social aspects of their lives and the needs of specific groups. The Welsh Government partnered with the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Children in Wales and Welsh Youth Parliament / Senedd Ieuenctid Cymru to design the nation-wide survey. They were the first government in the UK to formally seek the views of its country’s children and young people and the results are intended to inform the Welsh Government’s approach to working with and communicating to Wales’ younger generation during and beyond the pandemic.