Why participation?

Dr. Clive Diaz introduced the webinar and set out the objectives:

  • To consider what we mean by children’s participation 
  • To feedback findings from research with children and professionals 
  • To discuss barriers and enablers to ensuring children and young people have an opportunity to participate meaningfully 
  • To consider how we can improve practice in relation to children’s participation 

Clive started by introducing the Ladder of Participation, originally by Sherry Arnstein (1969) and categorised by Roger Hart.


Clive also discussed the ‘climbing wall’ of participation (Thomas 2002) which includes autonomy, choice, control, information, support and voice. Children’s participation is important because it increases confidence, self-efficacy and self-worth (Dickens et al. 2015).  It is also an acknowledgement of their civil rights (Schofield & Thoburn 1996).

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

Lorna Stabler and Dr Chloe O’Donnell from CASCADE 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 from CASCADE 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.

Workshop speaker

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 workers or IRO’s and that of senior managers around caseloads 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 and chairing their own meetings
•    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.