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Giving young people a voice for change

Participation & co-production

Children and young people are central to everything we do. We provide them with opportunities to be involved in decision-making, from helping to shape new services and their own homes to interviewing new members of staff.

'Only I know what it’s like for me, other people can try to understand but only I truly know.'
Amir, young person

What is participation?

Participation is the active involvement of young people in experiences, opportunities and decisions about how to make their lives better. It gives young people the power to shape both the way they are involved and the outcomes of their involvement. These experiences boost self-esteem and equip young people with the essential transferable skills they need for the future.

Young people picked five key things that they think are important for meaningful participation:

  • Everyone has a say, but we have the right not to say anything too
  • Be honest about how much impact our participation can and will have
  • Our involvement is supported and valued by everybody
  • We get involved in fun ways that actually make a difference
  • Activities change and improve depending on what we are telling you about

What is co-production?

Co-production is a type of participation activity when you create something new in partnership with the people you are working to support.

At St Christopher’s we believe co-production is the route to developing fantastic, life-changing children’s services. For us, this involves coming up with ideas alongside our children and young people for new services and support streams, like our Trusted Relationships project.

This is a strengths-based way of working that recognises our young people’s expertise about being in care. Through our social pedagogic approach, we know that every single young person we care for is full of innovative ideas that can change the shape of children’s social care – and we empower them to achieve this.

How does participation work at St Christopher’s?

Young people can have their say every single day at St Christopher’s. Some of our bigger pieces of work include:

Annual consultation project

Each year we ask young people to give feedback on all parts of St Christopher’s including their homes, the staff, and whether they feel safe. We don’t do this through surveys or questionnaires – instead, we work together with young people to come up with a better way of collecting their thoughts. Usually this is an inclusive group activity so we can have fun along the way, like going to a trampoline park or making art work for young people’s homes.

Interviewing new members of staff

Young people help draft job descriptions for key roles and sit on interview panels for staff at all levels in all areas of the organisation. Their contributions are given equal weighting to those of the staff and they provide really useful insights into what skills and qualities are important for working with young people.

Service design and delivery

Young people are involved in designing new services from the very start. In every service they have a say over activities in the home, the weekly menu and the décor.

Our service development revolves around the things that young people want. For example, when we set up our Staying Close project young people told us they wanted help to stay in touch with staff in their former children’s home. We have ensured this idea is at the very heart of the pilot, and have put this learning into practice across all of our other services.

External participation

We support young people to share their views on issues that affect them in the wider world. Every two months young people take part in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children. Some young people sit on local leaving care councils and others have contributed to St Christopher’s submissions to calls for evidence, like government reviews.

'I felt responsible when you asked us what we think makes a good Team Leader and then used that for the interview and when I helped with the interviewing for people to work at other homes.'
Ruby, young person

Young people's ideas are often better than staff's!

Alex oversees the life skills and participation team at St Christopher’s. Her main focus is supporting young people to prepare for independence and making sure they always have opportunities to have their say on ...