‘Unpacking’ the Principle and why it matters

All children and young people have the right to have a say about matters that affect them and be heard in decisions made about them. Listening to, hearing and responding to what children and young people are communicating (remembering that communication does not have to be verbal) helps to build trusting relationships and helps professionals to better engage children and young people. This in turn can increase their safety; participation is a core part of protection.

Respecting the voice, experience and expertise of children and young people means ‘working with them’ rather than ‘doing to them’; involving them in decision-making wherever possible and, where decisions cannot align with their wishes (for safety reasons, for example), having honest conversations around this. These behaviours form the basis of meaningful participatory practices. A child-centred approach to participation provides opportunities for children and young people to exercise control and choice. This is a powerful and practical way of inverting the coercion and manipulation associated with child exploitation and some forms of extra-familial harm.

Children and young people’s voices should be heard at all levels of safeguarding systems to influence decision-making about their own support, as well as at strategic level.

Particular attention must be paid to children and young people whose voices are sometimes under-represented or overlooked. These might include – but are not limited to – disabled children and young people, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young people, those placed far from home, those with complex mental health needs, those with no recourse to public funds and children and young people from ethnic minority groups.

I feel heard, acknowledged and validated because my views and opinions are sought and included. This matters to me and makes me want to talk to them.

How it should feel for a child / young person being supported