Lisa James, National Autistic Society

Describe your role

I’m the National Campaigns Officer at The National Autistic Society (NAS) and a big part of my role is making sure that people with autism can participate in our campaigns. This includes both children and adults but most recently I’ve been working to set up our Young Campaigners Group. This group was set up as part of the You Need To Know campaign, which is calling for better Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for children and young people with autism. The members of the Young Campaigners Group all have autism and experience of using CAMHS and we’re working with them to write a charter for mental health services for young people with autism. We’re also making a film with them to tell people about the charter and campaign.

What makes a good participation worker?

Flexibility, enthusiasm and a willingness to listen!

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?

One of the biggest barriers to involving children and young people with autism in our work is making sure there’s time to build participation into our work and giving young people enough time to be meaningfully involved in our campaigns. It can also be hard to manage expectations and explain that campaigning often takes a long time to change things.

What are the benefits?

Working with children and young people can bring a whole new dimension to your campaigns! Their enthusiasm and ideas are really inspiring and involving people directly affected by the issues we work on makes our campaigns much more powerful. It’s also a lot of fun and great to be able to empower people to campaign on what’s important to them.

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

Plan, plan, plan and prepare for your plans to go awry! Build in as much time to do the work as you can and really listen to what young people tell you they want to do.

What is effective participation?

Effective participation is all about involving people in a way that is positive for them and enables them to develop their own skills. It’s also really important to make sure that participation is meaningful and led by the views of people with autism.

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