Iftikhar Hussain, RYWUNE

Describe your role
My role can essentially be divided into four categories:

Youth Action North East (Y.A.N.E)

  • To manage and develop the work of Youth Action North East, which was formed to ensure that young people have the opportunity to influence regional decision making.
  • To ensure that all participation activities within the R.Y.W.U.N.E are monitored and evaluated.
  • To work with regional partners in ensuring that young people have a voice and role in regional decision making.
  • Raise the profile of Youth Action North East with young people, partners and the media.

Participation Infrastructure/Regional Active Participation Group (R.A.P)

  • To develop, promote and lead a network of organisations and individuals in the region for those who are involved participation and/or consultation work with children and young people.
  • To liaise with and promote existing networks of participation workers delivering services to children and young people in the North East.
  • To identify and research good practise in participation work with children and young people, and to disseminate this information as widely as possible.
  • To work with partners delivering services to children and young people, to promote effective methods and processes for the engagement and participation of children and young people.
  • To share good practise and a broader understanding of children and young people’s participation with colleagues in other regions.

Strategic Development

  • To work with young people, decision makers and other stakeholders to ensure the strategic development of youth participation and consultation in the North East.
  • To engage with emerging sectors (i.e Culture & Leisure) and actively promote participative practises within their organisations.
  • To work with regional partners in the development of young people friendly participation initiatives.
  • To promote youth work and participation principles in a regional strategic context, and in relation to its impact on educational engagement, self- esteem, aspiration and employment.
  • To contribute to workforce development in the North East in relation to participation skills and practice.

To develop and deliver training on issues related to children and young people’s participation.

What makes a good participation worker?

  • Having an understanding of children & Young peoples’ issues
  • Having the skills and capacity to listen to children & Young people
  • Being honest
  • Being non-judgemental
  • Being approachable
  • Being professional
  • Being informed
  • Being supportive and encouraging
  • Being a positive role model
  • Not being condescending
  • Not being ‘teachery’
  • Not shouting or intimidating children & young people

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?
There are different barriers for different children & young people. For examples groups of young people with disabilities will encounter different barriers. But as a wider point, no two young people are the same and as such each young person may have their own barriers that may need to be considered. One size definitely does not fit all. I also don’t accept the idea of their being ‘hard to reach’ groups of young people. Because firstly this implies that these hard to reach groups are a homogenous group and they are not. For example there exist differences within the various B.M.E. young people’s communities. Secondly terms like ‘hard to reach’ suggests that there is something inherent within these groups that make them inaccessible, as opposed to considering that there may be something wrong or problematic with the approach adopted by certain organisations and professional.   

As indicated above, I the think that the real barriers are created by adults, namely:

  • Adults not willing to give up power
  • Adults not providing adequate resources and time
  • Adults not taking participation seriously
  • Adults not offering genuine commitment
  • Adults not knowing how to involve children & young people
  • Adults not valuing children & young people’s views
  • Adults thinking that children & young people don’t want to be involved
  • Adults thinking that the process is too complex and demanding
  • Adults not appropriately supporting children & young people

There are other issues such as ‘participation fatigue’ or previous bad experiences, but I feel that most of the barriers are created by adults.

What are the benefits?
I think the benefits for participation can best be summarised under the following headings:

  • Benefits for children & young people:
  • Increase confidence, self esteem and skills
  • Services improved in response to children & young people’s needs
  • Children & young people get a better understanding of organisations and how to influence them

Benefits for organisation:

  • Requirement from local and national polices. Children & young people have a right to be involved in decisions that affect them
  • Involvement of children & young people is often a requirement for funding
  • Services will be better informed thus more effective
  • Services improved according to children & young people’s needs
  • Children & young people can bring fresh insights in to how best to improve services.
  • Services develop a better understand regarding any barriers that exist to children & young people accessing services.

Benefits for the community:

  • Community cohesion and integration is encouraged through participation and (local) decision making
  • Such empowerment raises aspirations amongst children & young people.
  • Participation actively encourages citizenship

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?

  • Involve children & young people from the start of the process
  • It needs appropriate resources to support it
  • Ensure that meetings are held on times and days that suit children & young people
  • Choose a avenue for meetings that is suitable for children & young people
  • Use a range of methods for relaying information back to children & young people
  • Provide clear and relevant information
  • Provide clear and ongoing communication about the participation process
  • Provide regular feedback regarding their involvement
  • Be able to accept and encourage positive and negative feedback from children & young people
  • Make atmosphere welcoming for children & young people and avoid excluding particular groups of children & young people
  • Ensure that staff have the right skills and commitment to support children & young people
  • Ensure that the participation event is enjoyable

What is effective participation?
Effective participation involves including all young people (if they want to). Meaningful and effective participation also includes involvement in real decision making processes and ultimately improvements and changes to services.

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