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Delivery Team Reflection – Good practice principles: hearing the voice of children and young people


Underpinning our participation principles to the TCE Joining the Dots framework


Joining the Dots (JtD) is a framework developed by the Tackling Child Exploitation (TCE) Support Programme based on learning from both programme delivery and the development and synthesis of evidence-informed resources. Its focus as a framework is on the ‘how’ of tackling child exploitation and extra-familial harm, rather than the ‘what’ needs doing.  

The framework has three, interconnected, themes:

  • Bridging boundaries
  • Leading with care
  •  Holding complexity, uncertainty and curiosity 

These themes are intended to promote cross-cutting partnership approaches capable of responding to the breadth and depth of the system challenges inherent to child exploitation and extra-familial harm.

The JtD framework aims to support and challenge us all to break down siloed thinking and activity. Children and young people’s experiences in relation to different forms of exploitation and extra-familial harm are varied and complex. So the strategic response to these harms needs to be able to respond to this complexity and approach both protection and support from new perspectives.

With all this in mind, these principles were co-developed by consortium partners, including significant support from our TCE intern using the JtD framework. We hope that these principles act as a starter for other organisations.

Building bridges
Broad based partnerships including young people as part of our partnerships, bridging boundaries between strategy and operations and bridging gaps identified through our work.

The Programme’s commitments are as follows:

  • We will ensure that participation extends to and includes young people of different ethnicities, races, genders, sexualities, gender non-conforming statuses, abilities, socio-economic statuses, and so on.

  • We will discuss further opportunities for young people’s voices to be heard where possible, be transparent about these opportunities and what we can and can’t do or achieve. If working across a partnership, respect is required to understand the scope of individual organisations and this needs to be relayed to young people. There is a need for mutual benefits, which will be known from the beginning of engagement for the young people and the team. Transparency and honesty will be paramount.

  • We will always ensure that young people are able to participate in activities without any cost to them or their families. 

Leading with care
Reflecting on how far our leadership approach and behaviours explicitly align with the learning from, and needs of, young people and families for whom exploitation is a concern. Drawing particularly on the principles of restorative practice (fair process, voice, using restorative questions, and accountability) to identify and challenge bias and assumptions, use of language and to cede power.

The Programme’s commitments are as follows:

  • We will aim to create an environment and platform that is safe for young people to set their own boundaries and feel empowered to share their experiences of engagement when taking part in participation and consultation. We will not encourage them to share their trauma, story or experiences of abuse.

  • Any engagement activity will operate to the standards set in the TCE Safeguarding Policy, and contribute to our understanding of how best to safeguard young people and protect them from harm. 

  • We will lead this work with care, ensuring young people feel comfortable to contribute their voices to issues they identify.

  • We will keep children and young people informed of how their opinions have influenced decision-making and engage with them respectfully, taking their needs into consideration prior to our work with them.

  • Our engagement with children and young people will not introduce unnecessary risks to their safety and wellbeing. We will always seek to ensure they are protected from harm. All participants will be anonymised unless otherwise agreed  prior to engagement.

  • We will always ensure that children and young people make an informed decision to participate and that the nature and extent of their contribution is clear.

  • During our work with young people, we will use strengths-based language and ask open-ended questions that are non-directive to encourage young people to be honest.

  • We will hold ourselves to account through TCE structures to ensure that we are treating young people as we would treat our colleagues and other professionals.

  • We will self-reflect to consider our own biases and assumptions.

  • We will consider the appropriateness of the involvement of young people, as well as the context for their involvement in certain spaces.

  • We will ensure young people’s voices are not included as a tokenistic gesture, and that their involvement and the sharing of their experiences is genuine to them as professionals, as well as to their progression or development.

  • We will engage with external organisations that have experience of participation and consultation groups, to ensure a representative can be in attendance at any groups facilitated by the Programme. We will ask this representative to mediate between the Programme professionals asking the questions and the young people answering them.

All of the above will help to support us in our commitment to conceding power.

Working with uncertainty, complexity and curiosity
Focus less on what we do and more on how we can apply the emerging evidence we have in relation to participation especially focussed on child exploitation and extra-familial harm to positively disrupt approaches not designed to meet the challenges of extra-familial harm. This acknowledges what a challenging and constantly-moving context working in child exploitation and extra-familial harm is.

The Programme’s commitments are as follows:

  • Investment of our time and energy to move beyond feedback to collaborative service design.

  • We will listen with intent to young people’s feedback and respect their views and experiences, acknowledging that their feedback might differ from what we wanted or expected to hear.

  • We will embed feedback loops in order to disrupt the cycle of young people contributing and receiving minimal or zero feedback on how they have informed or influenced the system.

  • We will give permission to act bravely.
  • We will work creatively whilst working hard to share power and control with young people.

  • We will respect and be honest with young people about why and what is required from their involvement.

  • We will have clear aims and objectives around requesting young people’s contributions, to ensure they are certain during the process from start to finish, and of the overall plan.

  • We will have confidence as professionals to ensure that, in order to engage young people in participation, we do not become bound by process, bureaucracy and rules.

  • We will be honest as professionals about what we don’t know and if we can’t answer a question we will acknowledge this. It’s OK to be vulnerable as professionals, especially when we ask young people to be.

  • We will introduce mutual feedback to encourage organic self-reflection between young people and professionals.
  • We will respect young people’s right to choose when they wish to engage, and ensure that they read and agree to their feedback before it is published and shared elsewhere.

What next?

In the second phase[1] of the Programme’s priority to engage children and young people in strategic decision-making, we will be sharing these principles with them, and with their parents and carers, in order to hear their views. We wanted to take something tangible to children, young people, parents and carers, as we know the JtD framework has been developed by the Programme. And we’re committed to ‘ripping it up’ and starting again based on this vital feedback.

[1] The second phase of this work commenced in November 2021.

This blog is part of a series –

Good practice principles: hearing the voice of children and young people

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Joining the Dots
Our collective knowledge of and understanding of child exploitation is still a developing field. Ideas and examples from across the sector and beyond may help bring a fresh new perspective or unlock a problem. The resources below are part of this rich conversation...
Read more

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