Planning children's services: a model of engagement

This document provides a model of engagement for developing children's services plans.


There is considerable evidence on the importance of involving children and young people in issues that affect their lives. Adopting an approach to children's services which is based upon children's rights will enhance the wellbeing of our children and young people.

The recent report on the State of Children's Rights in Scotland from Together (the Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights) [3] presents a clear case for focusing our efforts, amongst other areas, on education, leisure, cultural activities, health and wellbeing, disability and welfare, violence reduction, family environment and alternative care.

There have been several studies over the years that have identified best practice models in the participation of children and young people with 36 different models identified between 1969 and 2012 [4] . The feature of most of these models is to consider how to move away from what is often identified as limited, tokenistic, consultative approaches, towards real engagement, where "participation is about how children's voices, contribution and agency are perceived, heard, and acted upon." [5]

Despite the evidence about why participation is important and having a wide array of models available to choose from practice is still patchy. In Edinburgh, there are two evidence based approaches currently in use with the Children's Parliament working with children aged up to 14 and Young Edinburgh Action, working with young people aged 11 and over. Both of these approaches adopt rights based approaches which are based on meaningful engagement of children and young people.

Recent research on the approach adopted by Young Edinburgh Action concluded that "The strength of this approach ensures the engagement of young people within the work of the Council and its partners in a way which is co-productive, dynamic and responsive to current legislation." [6] Similarly, the work of the Children's Parliament has been recognised by Together (Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights) talking of how it "demonstrates the possibilities for how children's voices can be included in local and global dialogue, if adults are willing to invest the time and resources needed to create appropriate and supportive opportunities for children to engage and to listen to and value their contributions. Children's voices should have a ripple effect, influencing life in those spheres closest to them as well as the wider discussions of national and global significance." [7]

The Edinburgh Children's Partnership was keen to build on the work of these evidence based approaches in taking forward this pilot in recognition of the considerable work that has already taken place around the participation of children and young people in Scotland. The difference with this pilot is to consider how participation can be achieved in the planning of children's services and most importantly how it can be sustained.


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