John Batt, South West Regional Youth Work Unit

Describe your role
I have two roles. Having retired in July from Somerset County Council after 28 years as a youth worker and youth manager. I have been fortunate enough to work part time with the South West Regional Youth Work Unit covering for the maternity leave of the Youth Democracy worker. This role is mainly supporting the Regional UKYP and managing a programme  of training in youth participation for a variety of sectors including Libraries, Health and Police as well as Youth Workers.  I also do freelance training and consultancy in areas of youth work management and engaging young people. I am also covering the post of PWNE South West Region Coordinator through the unit.

What makes a good participation worker?
Fundamentally a value base of equality and empowerment with a passion to be   provide creative learning opportunities for young people which help them to fully engage with their peers their community or broader society.

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?
The perceptions that all young people are either in need of being socially controlled or are incapable of doing things for themselves. We are now so risk averse that we do not let young people make choices for themselves and exercise their own judgments. In 1990 we had 10 youth service criteria one of which was “ take care of them when things go wrong” now it would read “ do not allow them to do anything that could go wrong.

What are the benefits?
If young people are allowed to be part of whatever the decisions and actions are that affect their lives they learn how to grow up and take responsibility for their own lives.

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?
Know exactly what the outcomes you want to achieve are, before you embark on any engagement activities. I have always used the motto, “ if young people know the rules then they can play the game”.

What is effective participation? 
It is not a one off event but a continual process where young people have the opportunity to develop and that they learn the skills and acquire the expertise to engage in things they want to do. Whether that is a joining a group for the first time or traveling independently to present their views in a national forum. 

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