Involving children and young people in developing social care
Case study 11: Investing in Children, Durham and Darlington County Council
Service provided by organisation
Investing in Children creates opportunities for children and young people to engage in dialogue with services they access about issues that they have recognised as important and thus influence local policy-making.
Characteristics of children/young people involved
The organisation works with children and young people aged up to 21 years old, throughout County Durham. Since its origins in 1995, Investing in Children estimates that it has worked with over 7,000 children and young people, including those who are travellers and disabled young people.
How participation has been developed
There are currently more than 50 ongoing children and young people's groups that are researching issues in their own areas of interest. Each has its own budget and a member of staff who supports it. At the beginning of a new project, an 'agenda day' is held when a group of young people meet and agree on the agenda for a particular issue.
Groups are currently addressing a number of issues including:
- access to leisure services
- services for children with spina bifida
- public transport provision.
The activities that groups have taken part in include:
- service planning
- evaluating services
- producing publicity material and a monthly young person's newsletter (for which young people are paid to write articles)
- organising national and international conferences.
There is an Investing in Children reference group (the Decisions Group) and a council reference group, both of whom meet with strategic managers in each organisation and have been involved in staff recruitment and delivering training. Local services are supported to develop action plans involving children and young people. Those that can evidence that they are listening to children and young people receive Investing in Children membership.
The development of participation at Investing in Children is continuously being reviewed, with an open dialogue at the end of every project about what did and didn't work. When young people are involved in the development of services, reviews of the service are carried out six, nine and twelve months after the end of their involvement.
Changes or improvements as a result of children and young people's participation
- Children and young people appointed senior council and Investing in Children staff.
- Children and young people produced a statement of intent that all the local youth services have signed up to, one of the aims of which is to work in partnership with children and young people.
- Children and young people have influenced the development of new and appropriate services. For example, an Investing in Children card has been introduced so that young people can have discounted public transport. In addition, there is improved access to transport for young people in old pit villages in the region, a music night has been developed for young people and new equipment for the community centre has been bought.
It is felt that some of these decisions have been due to individuals in organisations rather than to structural changes. As a result, a training programme for organisations about involving children and young people has been developed.
Had lots of little changes like developing new leaflets, and new services like a skate park so seen change happen. but it can be very slow.
Young person, aged 18
Evidence of outcomes from participation
The project has produced the following documentation to evidence the development of participation:
- Investing in Children statement of intent (established from framework of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), which includes: 'Adults don't always know best. we must listen to and learn from what children and young people have to say. This means creating opportunities for children and young people to have a voice in all decisions that affect them.'
- Investing in Children information package
- Evaluation from Durham University - 'Investing in Children projects have been very successful in improving services across a very wide range of public provision. Consultants typically feel that they have learnt a great deal about innovative youth work... able to work with young people in non-judgemental, innovative ways.' (Evaluation report)
- Training pack on involving children and young people for practitioners and managers.
- Bi-monthly young person's newsletter.
Contact person and role: Maria Brannen (investing in children practice manager)
Address: Moor Chambers, 23-26 Front Street, Framwellgate Moor, Durham DH1 5EJ
Telephone: 0191 386 7485