Research allows Swansea children to make their voices heard
Children’s engagement and participation in decision making will be the subject of a youth conference in Swansea this week.
Research on this topic was recently undertaken by Dr Anthony Charles of Swansea University’s Centre for Criminal Justice and Criminology, for his PhD studies.
His work, which adopted a child-focused approach, was informed by the responses of more than 500 young people, working in partnership with a team of pupils and teaching staff at Pentrehafod School, allied with an E-conversation with schoolchildren across Swansea.
Dr Charles’ work seeks to illuminate children and agencies’ understandings of the processes, mechanisms, and perspectives of youth participation.
The dissemination of his findings will culminate in the UR Community 2011 conference on Tuesday, July 19, at Pentrehafod School, which will focus on youth decision making in local communities.
Key themes which will be addressed during the conference will be safer neighbourhoods, out of school activities, and healthy images of youth.
The conference will be attended by pupils from Pentrehafod School, The High Sheriff of West Glamorgan Mrs Susan Waller Thomas, Commander of the Police in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot, Chief Superintendent of Police Mark Mathias, and agencies which work with young people in Swansea including local Police Officers and Members of the Local Authority.
Dr Charles said: “Children's participation in decision-making is an issue which impacts upon policy and practice across the full range of personal, social, economic and civic activities. Participation is multi-dimensional, and is simultaneously important to individuals, communities, and decision makers.
“Young people’s participation in decision making is an important public policy issue, and for example, in recognising this, the Welsh Government developed an Extending Entitlement strategy in 2000, and recently passed the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure in 2011 which incorporates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) into Welsh law.
“However, research undertaken in Swansea suggests that there is a subtle irony within youth participation: namely that children, despite being the focus of policy and practice often find it difficult to get their voices heard and make a difference. Yet, through the research, it was made very clear that young people want to participate and, for example, play full and meaningful roles in their local communities.”
He adds that within Swansea, a tradition has been forged during the past 15 years wherein policy and practice have been shaped by research undertaken at Swansea University.
Research findings have influenced city-wide changes to policy and practice, adding value and quality to the actions of agencies and enhancing outcomes.
What his project, which was awarded a grant of £8463 by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), seeks to achieve follows in that vein: creating impact through the embedding of research into practice and locating enquiry within partnership working.
“This may create impact by leading to service improvement and the development of policies which better meet the needs of young people and adults.” said Dr Charles.
“Through this project adults and young people have become engaged in examining and offering suggestions concerning the implications of research on youth participation-related policy and practice.”
Dr Charles, who will receive his PhD on Wednesday, July 20, at the School of Law’s Degree Award Congregation, held in the city’s Brangwyn Hall, added the research process will not end following the UR Community 2011 conference.
“Rather, findings from both the original research and the youth conference will continue to be explored with key decision makers and young people in order that new, innovative and sustainable responses can be developed, resulting in better and more meaningful appreciations of youth participation in decision making.” he said.
Commenting on the project, Chief Superintendent Mark Mathias said: “The young people of today are tomorrow’s adults and it is absolutely vital that they have a voice and are allowed to shape their future. This seminar is a great opportunity for us to listen, learn and continue to change our services to meet the needs of young people.”
The High Sheriff of West Glamorgan, Mrs Susan Waller-Thomas added: “I am delighted to be taking part in the UR Community 2011 youth conference. It is part of the High Sheriff's role to promote the themes addressed by the conference and to encourage young people to play a positive part in the decisions that affect their communities.”