Minister James Reilly launches a European first,
a national strategy to give children a role in
making decisions that affect their lives
Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Chartered Accountants House, Pearse Street, Dublin
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly has today launched a new national strategy intended to ensure that children and young people have a voice in decision making that affects their lives. In a first for Europe, the Minister has launched the National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision Making (2015-2020).
Speaking at the launch in Dublin Minister Reilly said “We are proud to be the first country in Europe to develop a National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making. The goal of this strategy is to ensure that children and young people have a voice in decisions about their individual and collective everyday lives in their communities, in education, on their health and wellbeing and in legal settings”.
The strategy, which is a constituent of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (2014-2020) is primarily aimed at children and young people under the age of 18, but embraces young people in the transition to adulthood. It is guided and influenced by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
“In Ireland, the consequences of not listening to the voices of children and young people have been well documented” said the Minister “Reports such as the Kilkenny Incest Case, the Roscommon Case, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and the Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group are stark reminders of the failures of individuals and systems to listen to and act on the voice of the child. To ensure that the failures of the past are not repeated, processes and systems must be in place to protect children by giving them a voice, listening to that voice, empowering them to act and, where appropriate, acting on their behalf. This strategy sets out measures to ensure that our most vulnerable children are listened to, asked the right questions and better protected with actions that emphasise the importance of staff training and support.”
The Minister noted: “Implementation of this strategy will require significant cultural change. We often think of children only in their capacity as future adults, with less regard for the contribution they can make to our world during childhood. Key to this strategy is recognition that children and young people are not ‘beings in becoming’, but are ‘citizens of today’ with the right to be respected and heard during childhood, their teenage years and in their transition to adulthood. Giving children and young people a voice in decision-making requires a cross-government response and initiatives and actions from all key departments and agencies are included in this strategy. ”
The priority action from the strategy for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is the establishment of a Children and Young People’s Participation Hub, as a national centre for excellence. The Hub will support Government departments and other organisations in implementing the strategy through training, documenting best practice and working with education institutions to oversee the development of education on children’s rights for professionals who work with and for children and young people. The Hub will also host a comprehensive online database of practical resources and literature.
The Minister also highlighted current work involving consultation with young people on behalf of different government departments including with the Department Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on Ireland 2016, with the Department of Health on the forthcoming National Obesity Strategy and with the Department of Justice on children living in Direct Provision.
Also speaking at the launch, Professor Laura Lundy from Queen’s University Belfast said: “The National Participation Strategy provides a pioneering example of good practice internationally and I am delighted and honoured to have my model for child participation incorporated within it.” As part of the development of the Strategy, Professor Lundy developed a checklist for participation to help organisations, working with and for children and young people, to comply with Article 12 of the UNCRC.
Professor Ursula Kilkelly from University College Cork warmly welcomed the launch of the Strategy and said: “with this Strategy, Ireland will build on its excellent work in this field by taking practical steps that will ensure that the right of children and young people to be heard is increasingly realised in Irish public life and beyond”.
Meanwhile Cárthach O Faoláin of Comhairle na nÓg welcomed that his National Executive had been consulted about the development of the Strategy. “We highlighted transport, school and education and making Comhairle na nÓg a core service of local authorities. We asked that the Action Plan be more specific about actions to ensure accountability from all departments so this strategy will work. I am glad to report that all our feedback has been included in the strategy.”
The Participation Strategy builds on the infrastructure for children’s participation established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and other organisations since the publication of the National Children’s Strategy in 2000. It builds on the infrastructure for children’s participation established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and other organisations. The 31 Comhairle na nÓg are the backbone of the structures that give children and young people a voice in decision-making in Ireland. Comhairle na nÓg are child and youth councils and are the responsibility of the 31 Local Authorities and are supported and part-funded by my Department. They have grown from strength to strength since their inception in 2001. Statistical data gathered under the evaluation of the Comhairle na nÓg Development Fund tells us that 5,032 children and young people attended Comhairle na nÓg AGMs in 2014 and that 805 Comhairle na nÓg meetings were held across the country in that year.
The development of the strategy involved a wide range of stakeholders and included: an extensive literature review by University College Cork, a national consultation with children and young people, a public consultation, an audit of children and young people’s participation in decision-making; and monitoring and evaluation of initiatives within the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
Following in-depth bilateral meetings with Government departments and agencies, a draft strategy and action plan were developed. Further consultation was undertaken with non-government stakeholders, organisers of Comhairle na nÓg and children and young people involved in the implementation of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (2014-2020).
The Strategy is underpinned by Professor Laura Lundy’s (Queen’s University Belfast) Model of Participation, which is grounded in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and focused on a rights-based approach to involving children in decision-making.
As a means of informing this Strategy and building a strong evidence base, the Department commissioned a number of pieces of research, which were launched today. These studies are on the voice of children in the home, school and community; the impact of participation initiatives on children and young people; the voice of children and young people in housing estate regeneration; and a literature review of on the participation of seldom-heard children and young people to identify best practice principles.
Another publication launched today ‘A practical guide to including seldom heard children and young people in decision-making’ is jointly published the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Bardardos.