Dan Moxon, North West Regional Youth Work Unit

Describe your role
My role is Regional Participation Officer at the North West Regional Youth Work Unit. I support young people who are active at a local level to come together and influence the regional decision-making that affects young people in the North West. This includes creating opportunities for young people to have a voice within organisations such as Government Office North West, Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive and The Cheshire and Merseyside Child Health Development Program, as well as direct support for practitioners to share and develop their practice.

The work I do is always in partnership with local youth workers and youth services and couldn’t be achieved without their hard work and support. With these workers I run a number of projects including UK Youth Parliament – NW Region, The Young People’s Leadership Project and the Young Minister’s of Health, which all form part of a larger North West Regional Young People’s Forum.

What makes a good participation worker?
A good participation worker is an inclusive participation worker. Someone who understands the ways in which different groups are excluded within society, and designs their work to try and overcome some of this allowing a diverse variety of young people to have a voice through their work, and hopefully contributing to wider social change.

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?
I recently undertook a piece of peer led research with Liverpool Youth Service, which looked at the barriers to young people’s participation in the Northwest. The young people involved in the group identified the need for participation groups to link to other groups and wider structures, the need for a greater commitment from senior local authority figures, the need for young people to be supported to act as leaders, the need for workers and young people to receive campaign skills training and the need for young people to hear about the positive changes made by other young people.

What are the benefits?
As I see it there are three main benefits to youth participation, which don’t always complement each other.

1. It provides learning opportunities for young people and empowers individuals and groups

2. It promotes democracy and works towards social change

3. It provides opportunities for public services to improve based on what their communities or service users want, and brings the decision-maker closer to the person the decision affects

Not all participation work has all of these and it’s important to be clear about which you are aiming for, as this will affect how you go about your work.

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?
I’d also say that it’s important to recognise that supporting youth participation is a specific role requiring a particular knowledge, value base and understanding from the staff that do it. Across all of the organisations I work with this is best achieved when staff have had the opportunity to receive the right training and qualifications to support this. At the regional youth work unit we are very proud to say all of our work is underpinned by youth work and youth work values, which is still one of the main vocational qualifications within the children’s workforce with participation at its core.

What is effective participation?
This depends on which of the three benefits you are aiming for, but generally if your bringing young people together from a variety of backgrounds to represent other young people and influence social and political change you can’t go far wrong. That’s a lot easier to say than do though!

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB