Learning and Reflections, Minoritised voices & expertise by experience, Programme Blogs, Programme Themes

Young People’s Voices in Strategic Decision Making – Diary Entry reflections by the Tackling Child Exploitation programme


Diary #Week 5 – 8th January 2021

For the last three months, the Tackling Child Exploitation (TCE) Support Programme team have been working on a project, looking at how to include the voice of children and young people in local area responses to child exploitation. When we embarked on this important work, we assumed that it would follow a streamlined project management path – with Gantt charts, clear tasks and solid deadlines. The reality has been quite different.  

The problem of focusing on planning is that the importance of being clear about the questions that need asking and how best to answer them can be overlooked. We thought that the findings from our Twitter conversation would steer us in this, but in fact, it has left us feeling much less certain about what we are trying to do, and whether we are going in the right direction. 

What we know about participation work with young people is that it can too often be ‘one off’ or tokenistic, even harmful if it is not a positive experience for those involved or fails to generates positive change.  This concern was reflected in the Twitter conversation – it is clear that there are some who feel disillusioned about achieving meaningful participation and see a gap between rhetoric and practice.  

Coronavirus (COVID-19) does not help. It feels harder to ask people to get involved, undertake work that is over and above the day-to-day. However, we can’t help wondering if that reluctance mirrors wider behaviour in respect to listening to young people? Are we treating it as an add-on, rather than a core part of strategic thinking? 

We are conscious of our privileged position within the TCE Support Programme: there are resources for this work, and we are anxious to use them wisely. Whilst being reluctant to charge ahead without careful thought, we are also acutely conscious of the need to progress this work to ensure the youth voice is heard.

Our thinking has brought us to four key questions to be addressed: 

  1. How do we retain flexibility and ensure that the project can respond to what we are hearing? 
  1. It is time to start hearing from young people in this project – what do we need to ask them? What arrangements need to be put in place to make that happen? 
  1. What are the key questions for this project? To what extent are they distinct from and add value to other work that has previously taken place?   
  1. What is the significance of COVID-19 to this project? What can we learn from this last year to usefully inform how we can best facilitate young people’s participation in this work? 


Diary #Week 6 – 22nd January 2021  

As we welcomed the New Year, Isabelle and I started to identify actions for the next phase of this work. Revisiting the aims and sharing our thoughts and questions aloud has been valuable. During the past week, we had an especially helpful discussion with colleagues from The Children’s Society – it was both enlightening and encouraging to hear how others share our commitment to participation. 

Questions that were consistently raised during this conversation included: 

  • Is there appetite amongst professionals to hear young people’s voices?
  • Whose interests are being served when we seek to have young people’s voice feature in our strategic work to develop responses to exploitation – young people, professionals, strategic leaders or all three?

Isabelle and I need to prioritise asking young people if this piece of work is of interest to them. If they are interested – what problem do they want to try to solve? We reflected on my previous experience as a caseworker for a child exploitation service. When professionals referred young people to our service due to reports they were being exploited, young people would rarely identify exploitation as the problem they needed support with. On most occasions, they asked for help due to isolation from peers or school, family breakdown or had noticed a decline in their emotional well-being. So I ask myself, why are we so determined to include young people’s voices in our work, without knowing that they want to contribute or influence? How we frame this piece of work to young people will be crucial. We need to ensure that what we are asking makes sense to young people, and avoid using language and jargon that will be meaningless to them.  

Another key reflection has been in relation to the way we talk about ‘young people’s voices’. We need to consider how we are defining young people’s voices as part of this work, whose voice(s) do we want to and are able to hear. 
Youth voice can be present in multiple ways. Some hold the view that unless you name the young person who provided a specific quote then their contribution holds lesser value. Others dismiss a piece of work if there are no quotes from a young person. We must ask ourselves – what is the value of work, such as strategies or commissioning specifications, if young people were not involved in their development? For example, we reflected on the fact that professionals want to hear quotes from or have a young person present in training on child exploitation. However, when we ask professionals how they include young people’s voice in other elements of their work, there seems to be less space and less value for young people’s voices to be heard. To what extent does this reflect dynamics of professional power and control? Where are we willing to give up power? Where do we feel more anxious or reluctant? What about from the young person’s perspective: how far does their interest and/or willingness to contribute to this kind of work depend on what their personal experiences have been?  

The literature tell us that the voices and experiences of child sexual exploitation victims are far more likely to have been heard than young people who have been criminally exploited. We are keen to explore why. We think this could be due to the differences in empathy that can at times be shown towards victims who have been criminally exploited compared to sexual exploitation victims. If a young person has been arrested for a crime such as possession with intent to supply and we know they are being exploited, then their experiences should and will hold value. While the issues regarding peer-on-peer abuse are complex, children and young people under the age of 18 who offend and/or are exploited are still children, with the right to have their voices heard as set out in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  

A common, crosscutting theme in current thinking about young people’s voices is that of power, which will definitely feature for the duration of our work. My colleague Jo Petty’s blog references the power dynamics in design work with young people, describing it as an area ‘requiring leaders to be courageous — who are able to cope with the vulnerability associated with departing from ‘business as usual’.  

We have also acknowledged that young people’s voices can be influential at different stages in the development of work, and that there are multiple ways of gathering information from young people even in terms of consultations and participation. So we want to consider how we can expand the concept of youth voice to promote and develop opportunities, and how we can be smarter about sharing their influence and contributions.  

Something I want to leave you with for your own reflection is the ‘butterfly check’ that my wonderful colleagues Chloe Dennis-Green and Adam Groves asked Isabelle and I to use in order to check if we are on the right path. The butterfly check is: ‘if we’re feeling uncomfortable we’re doing something right’ and, ‘if we are truly being brave and ambitious, we will sit with butterflies’. 

So far, so good.


Twitter: @EllieFairgrieve or @isabellebrodie4 or by email: Ellie.Fairgrieve@childrenssociety.org.uk and isabelle.Brodie@beds.ac.uk

Practice Principles

Download the Practice Principles document to explore what this means for professionals, and how to develop your approach to tackling child exploitation.

Please note this is a legacy site and is not being updated. The TCE Programme closed on 31st March 2023.
The Practice Principles and all supporting resources will be available on the TCE microsite until March 31st 2026. Hosting arrangements beyond 2026 will be reviewed by the Department for Education.
© 2024 Tacking Child Exploitation
Registered Office: The Elmhirst Centre, Dartington Hall, Totnes, TQ9 6EL
Company Number: 1485560
Charity Number: 279756
VAT Number: 402196875
Website built by Vu Online

Accept Our Terms And Conditions

By clicking the ‘Accept’ button you, the user, confirm you have read and agree to the Terms and Conditions of Use of this open source website as part of the Tackling Childhood Exploitation Support Programme.

Terms and Conditions of Use

Please read these Terms and Conditions of Use carefully before you start to use the site. By using our site, you indicate that you accept these Terms and Conditions of Use and that you agree to abide by them. If you do not agree to these Terms and Conditions of Use, please refrain from using our site.

Accessing our site

Access to our site is open and public, and we reserve the right to withdraw or amend the service we provide on our site without notice (see below). We will not be liable if, for any reason, our site is unavailable at any time or for any period.

When using our site, you must comply with the provisions of our Acceptable Use Policy (below). You are responsible for making all arrangements necessary for you to have access to our site. You are also responsible for ensuring that all persons who access our site through your internet connection are aware of these Terms and Conditions of Use, and that they comply with them.

Intellectual property rights

The materials of this website have been gifted in kind or commissioned for the purpose of being open and free to access.

As a user, you may print off multiple copies and may download multiple documents.  These documents must only be used to support your work.  You must not pass on any part of the materials on our site to third parties and you must not use any part of the materials on our site for commercial purposes without obtaining a licence to do so from us or our licensors.

As a user of our site, you must not modify the paper or digital copies of any materials you have printed off or downloaded in any way, and you must not use any illustrations, photographs, video or audio sequences or any graphics separately from any accompanying text.   The status of any identified contributors as the authors of material on our site must always be acknowledged.

The identified contributors are the owner or the licensee of all intellectual property rights in our site, and in the material published on it. Those works are protected by copyright laws and treaties around the world. All such rights are reserved.

All trademarks, service marks, trade names, logos, domain names, and any other features of branding are the sole property of the respective contributors.

Our site changes

We aim to update our site regularly, and may change the content at any time. If the need arises, we may suspend access to our site, or close it indefinitely. Any of the material on our site may be out of date at any given time, and we are under no obligation to update such material.

Our liability

The material displayed on our site is provided without any guarantees, conditions or warranties as to its accuracy. To the extent permitted by law, we, other members of our group of companies and third parties connected to us hereby expressly exclude:

  • All conditions, warranties and other Terms and Conditions of Use which might otherwise be implied by statute, common law or the law of equity.
  • Any liability for any direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage incurred by any user in connection with our site or in connection with the use, inability to use, or results of the use of our site, any websites linked to it and any materials posted on it, including:
  • loss of income or revenue;
  • loss of business;
  • loss of profits or contracts;
  • loss of anticipated savings;
  • loss of data;
  • loss of goodwill;
  • wasted management or office time; and whether caused by tort (including negligence), breach of contract or otherwise, even if foreseeable, provided that this condition shall not prevent claims for loss of or damage to your tangible property or any other claims for direct financial loss that are not excluded by any of the categories set out above.

This does not affect our liability for death or personal injury arising from our negligence, nor our liability for fraudulent misrepresentation or misrepresentation as to a fundamental matter, nor any other liability which cannot be excluded or limited under applicable law.

Information about you and your visits to our site

We process information about you in accordance with our Privacy Policy. By using our site, you consent to such processing and you warrant that all data provided by you is accurate.

Viruses, hacking and other offences

You must not misuse our site by knowingly introducing viruses, trojans, worms, logic bombs or other material which is malicious or technologically harmful. You must not attempt to gain unauthorised access to our site, the server on which our site is stored or any server, computer or database connected to our site. You must not attack our site via a denial-of-service attack or a distributed denial-of service attack.

By breaching this provision, you would commit a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. We will report any such breach to the relevant law enforcement authorities and we will co-operate with those authorities by disclosing your identity to them. In the event of such a breach, your right to use our site will cease immediately.

We will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by a distributed denial-of-service attack, viruses or other technologically harmful material that may infect your computer equipment, computer programs, data or other proprietary material due to your use of our site or to your downloading of any material posted on it, or on any website linked to it.

Linking to our site

You may link to our home page, provided you do so in a way that is fair and legal and does not damage our reputation or take advantage of it, but you must not establish a link in such a way as to suggest any form of association, approval or endorsement on our part where none exists.

You must not establish a link from any website that is not owned by you.

Our site must not be framed on any other site, nor may you create a link to any part of our site other than the home page. We reserve the right to withdraw linking permission without notice. The website from which you are linking must comply in all respects with the content standards set out in our Acceptable Use Policy (below).

If you wish to make any use of material on our site other than that set out above, please address your request to TCEadmin@researchinpractice.org.uk.

Links from our site

Where our site contains links to other sites and resources provided by third parties, these links are provided for your information only. We have no control over the contents of those sites or resources, and accept no responsibility for them or for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of them.

Jurisdiction and applicable law

The English courts will have non-exclusive jurisdiction over any claim arising from, or related to, a visit to our site although we retain the right to bring proceedings against you for breach of these conditions in your country of residence or any other relevant country.

These Terms and Conditions of Use of use and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with them or their subject matter or formation (including non-contractual disputes or claims) shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the law of England and Wales.

International partners

Research in Practice is only able to provide technical support for our web services in English.

In the event of any legal dispute or claim, the courts of England and Wales shall have exclusive jurisdiction.

Storage, retention and access to data will be treated in accordance with our obligations under United Kingdom data protection legislation.

Acceptable Use Policy

Prohibited uses:

You may use our site only for lawful purposes. You may not use our site:

  • In any way that breaches any applicable local, national or international law or regulation.
  • In any way that is unlawful or fraudulent, or has any unlawful or fraudulent purpose or effect.
  • For the purpose of harming or attempting to harm minors in any way.
  • To send, knowingly receive, upload, download, use or re-use any material which does not comply with our content standards (below).
  • To transmit, or procure the sending of, any unsolicited or unauthorised advertising or promotional material or any other form of similar solicitation (spam).
  • To knowingly transmit any data, send or upload any material that contains viruses, Trojan horses, worms, time-bombs, keystroke loggers, spyware, adware or any other harmful programs or similar computer code designed to adversely affect the operation of any computer software or hardware.

You also agree:

  • Not to reproduce, duplicate, copy or re-sell any part of our site in contravention of the provisions of our Terms and Conditions of Use (above).
  • Not to access without authority, interfere with, damage or disrupt:
    • any part of our site;
    • any equipment or network on which our site is stored;
    • any software used in the provision of our site; or
    • any equipment or network or software owned or used by any third party.

Breach of Acceptable Use Policy:

We will determine, in our discretion, whether there has been a breach of this Acceptable Use Policy through your use of our site. When a breach of this policy has occurred, we may take such action as we deem appropriate.

Failure to comply with this Acceptable Use Policy constitutes a material breach of the Terms and Conditions of Use upon which you are permitted to use our site, and may result in our taking all or any of the following actions:

  • Issue of a warning to you.
  • Legal proceedings against you for reimbursement of all costs on an indemnity basis (including, but not limited to, reasonable administrative and legal costs) resulting from the breach.
  • Further legal action against you.
  • Disclosure of such information to law enforcement authorities as we reasonably feel is necessary.

We exclude liability for actions taken in response to breaches of this Acceptable Use Policy. The responses described in this policy are not limited, and we may take any other action we reasonably deem appropriate.

Changes to the Acceptable Use Policy

We may revise this Acceptable Use Policy at any time by amending this page. You are expected to check this page from time to time to take notice of any changes we make, as they are legally binding on you. Some of the provisions contained in this Acceptable Use Policy may also be superseded by provisions or notices published elsewhere on our site.

Your concerns

If you have any concerns about material which appears on our site, please contact TCEadmin@researchinpractice.org.uk.

Thank you for visiting our site.