Krishna Maroo, Children's Rights Alliance for England

Describe your role

As Children’s Rights Communications Officer at the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), my job is to plan and deliver training sessions to under-18s on children’s rights, human rights and equality law, and how to get legal advice.

Everything we do at CRAE is in partnership with children and young people, and this training programme isn’t any different! I have worked with children and young people on every aspect of the training course, from design and production of the flyers and legal advice handouts, to the actual activities and evaluating the impact of the project. Six children and young people have been trained to co-deliver and evaluate the training days.

My favourite part of my job is travelling all over England and meeting lots of children and young people. I get to talk to so many different groups of children and young people and discuss issues that affect them. Through these visits I can introduce them to legal advice, help them start a campaign or get them involved in CRAE’s work.

Before I started working at CRAE, I was the student voice co-ordinator of a West London school.

What makes a good participation worker?

A good participation worker should be open to new ideas, knowledgeable, and willing to adapt their methods of working to involve lots of different groups of children and young people. A good participation worker will also manage expectations of staff and young people, be supportive and always think about best practice – how can I be a better participation worker, and how can I support young people in a more effective way?

Children and young people have the right to be involved in decisions that affect them. Good participation workers will help them exercise this right effectively. 

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?

I find it really frustrating that some organisations or individuals still don’t “get” participation. It can’t be something that is picked up overnight or after one training course. It often takes a lot of explanation, persuasion and most importantly, a lot of time. It’s about working in partnership with young people and adult workers to bring about long-term change, and understanding how young people can be involved in a meaningful way.

One of the main barriers comes when involving a diverse range of children and young people, including those from more “hard to reach” groups. I have found partnership working really effective in these situations, but participation projects or schemes aren’t for everyone – some young people aren’t interested. The key is being creative and wide-ranging in your approach.

Another barrier to any project or scheme is budget cuts and financial restraints. I really hope participation is still kept at the forefront of all our work because it encourages us all to work honestly and effectively, with and for young people. Rather than allowing these times of belt tightening to limit our aspirations, we should take this opportunity to be more creative in involving children and young people in our work and in decisions that affect them.

My final participation pet-hate is tokenistic involvement of children and young people. Don’t do it for the sake of doing it, and don’t wheel out the same young person time and time again. With over 11 million children and young people living in England, surely you can get lots of others involved too?!

What are the benefits?

The children and young people develop new skills, see the impact of their involvement to bring about real change, and work side by side with adults. The organisation benefits from being more inclusive, supporting and training young people, and actually listening to the people who use or benefit from their services.

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

Five (ish) simple words: Creativity, integrity, (some) money, commitment (from young people, staff and the organisation) and structure (something to focus on).

What is effective participation?

Effective participation is aiming to bring about change for children and young people, with children and young people. It’s really important to keep a good record of how you are involving them, and measuring the impact of this involvement. This, in turn, will empower young people, really sell the idea of participation to the organisation/staff team, and give you the inspiring fuzzy feeling of facilitating something great.

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