Involving children and young people in developing social care

Introducing a whole-systems approach

As Kirby et al (2003) suggest, organisations that demonstrate successful participation are those that recognise that it reaches 'beyond specific events to include a whole overarching approach'. Recent guidance and research has reiterated this need to establish a whole-systems approach to ensure that the participation of children and young people affects change.

This guide proposes that there are four elements which need to be considered to ensure that a whole-systems approach is established:

By considering these four components of service development and delivery, children and young people's participation is more likely to result in change or improvement of social care services.

The four areas are depicted as four pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This structure does not offer an alternative to previous models of participation. Instead it aims to bring together the overarching themes from the literature into one framework. As developing effective participation across an organisation is not a linear process, the jigsaw demonstrates how each of the four elements can be considered separately or added to the puzzle in different sequences to produce the same outcome - the change or improvement of organisations.

jigsaw puzzle graphic

Culture: the ethos of an organisation, shared by all staff and service users, which demonstrates a commitment to participation.

Structure: the planning, development and resourcing of participation evident in an organisation's infrastructures.

Practice: the ways of working, methods for involvement, skills and knowledge which enable children and young people to become involved.

Review: the monitoring and evaluation systems which enable an organisation to evidence change affected by children and young people's participation.