Jan Roberts-Smith, Barnardo’s Wakefield CAPS

Describe your role:
Hi my name is Jan and I’m an Advocate at Barnardo’s Wakefield CAPS (Children’s Advocacy and Participation Service). As part of my role I complete Advocacy and Participation Work with children and young people of all ages.
My job is very varied and includes supporting children and young people to contribute in their Child Protection Conferences and Advocacy support for Looked After Children. I talk to young people when they have moved placement to feed their experiences back to the Local Authority. I also undertake partnership work with the Local Authorities Looked After Children’s Participation Worker. This work is involved with several young people’s forums. All aspects of my work includes ensuring that children and young people understand and know their Rights. 
What makes a good participation worker?:
A good Participation Worker listens to children and young people and helps them to get their voice heard.  They will be open and honest and work in partnership with them in an empowering way at all time. They work creatively to ensure that children and young people can participate in a way that works for them.    
What are the barriers to involving children and young people?:
I think there are two main barriers to involving children and young people: Peoples views on its value and the idea that it makes a process longer. It can be hard to convincing adults of the importance of the young person being involved and heard, Children and young people should be given serious consideration and their views held with equal value when decisions are being made that either affect them on an individual basis or on a strategic level. Sometimes people think by working with young people the process is longer. I have always found that if young people are involved in a process they take ownership and pride in it.  This then means it is more likely to work so does save time in the long run.
What are the benefits?:
The benefits of participation in my service are immense.  On a person level for the children and young people it is knowing that people take them seriously. This can have a great impact on their self esteem and confidence, which in turn enhances their future development and strengths.   For professionals it can give them a fresh perspective. Children and young people are their own experts and as such can help shape the interventions and support put in place for them.  From a service level we can influence funding to where it is needed for the work that we provide.  We can improve and develop services, improve children and young people’s experience of services and improve access to and the use of services.
What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?:
Be creative and think out of the box
Be persistent and don’t give up!
Work in partnership with children and young people and be led by them
Use preparation time effectively
Understand the issues presented fully
Provide appropriate choices and information
Promote participation at all levels.
What is effective participation?:
It is built on mutual trust, respect and dialogue and reduces power imbalances. Children and young people tell me that participation is only effective when they feel listened to.  This may not always involve getting what they have asked for but ensuring that they have a clear understanding of why things are the way they are.  
Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB