March 2019

Researchers from CASCADE, the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre at Cardiff University, jointly hosted a practitioner workshop with Children in Wales and Voices From Care.

Presenting were:

  • Dr Clive Diaz, Lorna Stabler and Dr Chloe O’Donnell from CASCADE at Cardiff University
  • Emma Sullivan from Children in Wales
  • Aiden Richards and young people from Voices From Care

What is Participation and why is it important?

The workshop began by considering what is meant by participation and why it’s important. Presenting Harts Ladder and ‘the climbing wall’ of participation, attendees were encouraged to consider ‘How important is children’s participation to you?’ and ‘Why is children’s participation important?’ Feedback included discussions around children’s rights, best practice, children’s well-being and power.

Children’s participation in family and professional meetings: Findings of a Realist Review

Lorna Stabler and Dr Chloe O’Donnell presented on the current review work being undertaken around children’s participation in family and professional meetings.

This presentation considered findings from the realist review of evidence highlighting what needs to happen before a meeting and during a meeting, then the possible positive outcomes after meaningful participation. The review also considered the conditions that need to be in place before a meeting as well as how you would incorporate the voice of non-attending children and young people.

Research project

Dr Clive Diaz discussed a research project he was involved with that interviewed 10 young people, 11 social workers, 8 independent reviewing officers (IRO’s) and 7 senior managers to gather their views of child participation.

The main barriers the research highlighted were, high turnover of staff, high caseloads, an inexperienced workforce, depersonalisation, lack of understanding and training in participation. The quality of the relationships between the child and the professionals, along with young people chairing their own meetings where the main enabler of meaningful participation.

The research found there was a big contrast between responses from social worker or IRO’s and that of senior managers around caseloads for example and the understanding of what is meant by ‘participation’. 
Clive’s research project concluded with some recommendations which included:

•    Reviewing caseloads for IRO’s and social workers
•    Young people to receive training on participation
•    Senior managers to spend time shadowing social workers every year
•    Better use of IT
•    Looking at reviews as being an enjoyable experience for young people and celebrating achievements, possibly more like a Family Group conference.

Children In Wales and Voices From Care young people’s session

The final session of the workshop was co-designed and delivered by Emma Sullivan from Children in Wales, Aiden Richards and young people from Voices From Care

They started with a short ‘This is me’ activity before discussing participation from young people’s perspectives. They presented the Participation Standards developed by Young Wales then Emma Sullivan Introduced her guide to review meetings for care experienced young people. All the guides produced by Children in Wales were developed with care-experienced young people.

The rest of the workshop attendees rotated around three simultaneous activities run on different tables facilitated by the young people. The activities included:

•    Discussing how to apply children’s rights to participation in meetings for young people,
•    Exploring experiences of young people from Voices From Care Cymru through case studies looking at Heart, Brain and Hands. Discussion on how the young person would have felt, what were the barriers to getting involved and what could have been done to make participation more meaningful, and,
•    Responding to a series of statements from young people and flipping them to work better – thinking about the words we use and actions that could have been taken to encourage meaningful and positive engagement.

The workshop finished with young people asking for attendees to share ‘What one thing you will take from this workshop and do differently when working with children and young people?’ The responses were:


Think more about feedback loops, young people being
involved in research and practice

The importance of listening to the YP
and involving them more too.

Questioning the basics, are meetings always necessary?

Take more time – spending time with young people
thinking about how they would like to participate

Exploring with children and young people how
we can make better use of technology to express their wishes and feelings.

Giving young people a voice

My use of language in meetings

Adequate preparation

Actively encourage young people to be involved and explain to fellow professionals our role to enable and empower young people to do this

Young people as advocates or peer mentors in reviews

Advocate more for advocates and move to use technology/video
recording of young people’s voices.

ExChange would like to thank the presenters and participants for contributing to and taking part in this event.