Involving children and young people in developing social care

Case study 9: Reference Group, Cheshire and Warrington Connexions

Service provided by organisation

The Reference Group is jointly run by Connexions and the youth service. Connexions is the government's support service for all young people aged 13 to 19 in England. It provides advice, guidance and access to personal development opportunities to support a smooth transition to adulthood and working life.

Characteristics of children/young people involved

Approximately 30 young people aged 13-19 are involved in the Reference Group. Young people with an interest in youth services were recruited by personal advisers. It is a mixed-ability group, including young people with learning disabilities and one young person who is visually impaired.

How participation has been developed

The Reference Group was established in 2000 to help meet Connexions' key principle: to involve young people in the organisation's service delivery and planning. The group meets every month and involves two members of Connexions' staff - a youth participation consultant with a practical focus and a director with a strategic focus - and four members from youth parliament.

As a new service, the Reference Group has been involved in organising Connexions' organisational structures, and regularly meets with various members of Connexions, including the management board. The Reference Group has been involved in numerous activities including:

Members have also become Connexions staff, through 12 youth link worker roles in the region.

Participation is written in the organisation's mission statement and in the job descriptions of personal advisers, and is in guidance received by staff when they join Connexions. An 'Active Engagement' working group has been established, attended by team leaders for participation. There are also training review days about active involvement that staff at all levels of the organisation must attend. All staff are given a checklist of 'active involvement' to inform their work.

Changes or improvements as a result of children and young people's participation

The group has:

Connexion also has a young person's active involvement plan.

[The young people's] panel isn't just talking and answering questions, it has a role. I've got to know the youth services sector, an understanding of all the agencies involved, and the culture of the sector which has played a lot into my career plans and decisions. Now I'm training as a youth worker at university.

Young person

Evidence of outcomes from participation

The project has produced the following documentation to evidence the development of participation:

Contact details

Contact person and role: Linda Mottram (director of external affairs) or Zarah Quraishi (youth work participation consultant)

Address: 2 The Stables, Gadbrook Park, Northwich, Cheshire CW9 7RJ

Telephone: 01606 305 202