The Group was established in early 2012 to make recommendations on improving the practice of listening to children in care and to improve opportunities for children and young people living in care to have a voice in decisions about their lives.
In June 2013, the children and young people took the decision to re-name the Group TACTIC - Teenagers and Children Talking in Care. 13 children and young people have subsequently become involved in the Group, which has met on a regular basis with Citizen Participation Unit officials in my department. All of the young people are in or have been in care and all of them were at the ‘Listen to Our Voices’ consultations.
The Group is working on the following initiatives:
- reviewing HSE Care Plan Guidance documents;
- helping in the development of national forms to seek and document the views of children and young people on the care they receive.
- The young people in TACTIC are also developing a suite of resources for children and young people going into care, including:
- a story book for 3-7 year-old children going into care, which has been developed with a children’s illustrator and author;
- an information guide for 8-12 year old children when first going into care;
- an information guide for 13-18 year old young people when first going into care;
- book marks with child and youth friendly versions of the Standards for children in foster and residential care; and
- short video to explain the care plan review process to children and young people in care.
These resources will be launched shortly after establishment of the new Agency and given to every child and young person going into care.
In addition, the children and young people from TACTIC have recommended that the new Child and Family Agency should establish a permanent advisory group of children in care, to ensure that children in care have a voice of in the work of the Agency.
During 2007, the DCYA established the Inclusion Programme to develop best practice in participation, by providing new opportunities for seldom-heard young people to become involved in decision-making structures. This decision was taken in recognition of the difficulties often faced by seldom-heard young people in effectively taking part in Comhairle na nÓg or other decision-making forums for young people.
The aim of the programme was:
- to provide meaningful participative experiences for the young people involved in the programme; and
- to identify good practice in enabling seldom-heard young people to take part in decision-making structures and processes.
Seven organisations, which work with seldom-heard young people, were funded over a two-year period to support the involvement of a number of young people in the DCYA Children and Young People's Forum (CYPF), Comhairle na nÓg and other programmes or projects that involve children/young people in decision-making.
The funded organisations were:
- Belong To
- FDYS Youth Work Ireland
- Irish Wheelchair Association
- Irish Association of Young People in Care
- Inclusion Ireland
- Pavee Point
The DCYA has captured the learning from this programme (2007 – 2009) through an independent evaluation, which highlights the benefits accrued from the programme, but identifies considerable challenges in providing relevant participation opportunities to seldom heard children.
In order to address the findings of the evaluation and build on the work of this programme, the DCYA commissioned research in January 2011 comprising of a literature review and identification of good practice in the field of participation of seldom heard children and young people relevant to the Irish context. This research will include participation of key groups such as Travellers, children and young people with disabilities and children and young people from disadvantaged/vulnerable backgrounds/communities.
The DCYA Children and Young People’s Forum (CYPF) was established in 2004 as a reference panel:
• to advise the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the DCYA on issues of concern to children and young people;and
• to undertake projects or activity at the behest of the Minister or the DCYA in pursuing issues or initiatives that require an input from young people
There are 35 young people on the Forum aged 12 – 18 years, from all parts of the country. They are nominated to the CYPF through Comhairle na nÓg and organisations representing seldom-heard children/young people. Approximately 30% of the members of the Forum are nominated through organisations that represent children and young people living in the care of the State, young Travellers, children and young people from disadvantaged communities, children and young people with disabilities, gay and lesbian young people and other seldom-heard young people.
The CYPF has been an invaluable resource to the DCYA. The members have been consulted on, or been involved in many initiatives including:
- The design and content of the national recreation policy;
- The development of student council resources;
- Tender evaluation committees for relevant projects;
- Health service provision for teenagers;
- The Mid Term Review of the National Children's Strategy;
- The development of child and youth-friendly versions of the United Nations; Convention on the Rights of the Child;
- Supporting national consultations with teenagers on alcohol misuse and mental health;
- Working with transport providers on reduced fares for 16 and 17 year-olds; and
- Working on homophobic bullying.
The DCYA Children and Young People’s Participation Partnership Committee oversaw implementation of the Comhairle na nÓg two-year development plan (2009-2011). The committee was comprised of representatives of the DCYA, the Department of Environment and Local Government, the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Arts Sports and Tourism, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the student council support service, the HSE, the youth sector (National Youth Council of Ireland, Foróige, Youth Work Ireland and other youth organisations), City and County Development Boards, young people and other key stakeholders.
The committee successfully completed the work in March 2011. New structures to oversee implementation of effective participation in decision-making for children and young people will be established in 2012, under the new National Children and Young People’s Policy Framework (2012-2017).