Ruth Morton, Essex County Council

Ruth Morton

Describe your role

My job role is to support the involvement of children, young people, parents and carers in the design, delivery, governance and evaluation of services that affect them. This means working with partners, within Essex County Council and externally, to embed this ethos and support them in whatever way is appropriate – this may be in the direct work with groups of children and young people, advising on and organising access to accreditation or involving other team members in specialist areas such as data analysis of research with children and young people. 

What makes a good participation worker?

A good participation worker is one who believes and can translate that belief into practice. One who recognises that the active involvement of children and young people is a right and that positive action should be taken to ensure that all children and young people get the opportunity to "have their say" in whichever way is right for them. 

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?

The main barriers to involving children and young people are time and money! There is always a shortage of both, so that means we need to be creative in how we can get them involved. We can use existing systems and data so avoiding duplications and work with partners, sharing or aligning resources.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of involving children and young people are all extremely well documented, so rather than list them yet again, I'll explain my personal favourite - that it keeps us, as workers, on our toes and it keeps things fresh. When working with children and young people there is very little danger of being able to say, "we've always done it this way" or even ask the sensible outcomes questions. Children and young people cut straight to the chase and home in on the pertinent issues that are currently important to them.

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

We’re here to do ourselves out of a job! Once participation is embedded everyone should have an understanding and know their responsibilities to make this happen - we are aiming for self advocacy in the broadest sense. We're here too to make things better for children and young people and that should always be at the centre of what we do.

What is effective participation?

Effective participation is meaningful participation. It must be part of the original planning for a project or provision and should not be tokenistic at all. Children and young people should be involved because they want to be and have been able to make an informed decision about their role and the outcome. Effective participation should also be inclusive; all children and young people have a right to participate and have their views and opinions heard, nobody should be excluded from being given the opportunity to participate.

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