Phil Long, London Borough of Redbridge Youth Service

Describe your role
My name is Phil Long and I am the Youth Participation Officer for the London Borough of Redbridge Youth Service. We have a number of politically active young people in Redbridge and it is my job to oversee and co facilitate these groups with young people. The groups I am responsible for are the youth council, UK Youth Parliament, Young Redbridge life (local paper that young people have a double spread over each edition, YOF and YCF, and sub groups, which arise from these meetings. Also I am currently undertaking a review of the youth participation strategy for Redbridge, with a view to re-writing it. It’s a great job and every day is different.

What makes a good participation worker?
Trust, enthusiasm, optimism and empowerment are just a few of the key qualities a good participation worker requires. Also when involving young people throughout projects you need to respect their points of view, knowledge and outlook on life and support them through their ideas equipping them with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions along the way.

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?
The main barrier I believe to involving children and young people are as a worker or an organisation being tokenistic and over critical of devolving power to young people. Often individuals or organisations are optimistic about the outcome and worried it may not follow their agenda, but true participation worker is about the young people’s agenda. Barriers, which are often attached to this, are money and resources to deliver.

What are the benefits?
I believe the benefits are endless. Participation work keeps young people motivated and interested, as well as building skills they will need for working life. Involving young people ensures that we have better services that are well attended and relevant to their needs. As adults we are more likely to attend something if we have been part of the process, and I believe this is the same for young people. In Redbridge it has proved that the more we involve young people, the better our outcomes are and through evaluation has demonstrated they have learnt more.

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?
Have faith and trust in the groups you are working with. Challenge the boundaries of your organisation and the work you do. Ensure that young people are at the forefront of your work and organisation and have at least equal input into the work. Always feedback to young people whatever the outcome.

What is effective participation?
Effective participation is when young people have impacted and there has been change as a result of this. Creating effective participation models and structures which meet the needs of young people go along way to ensuring this process.

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