Engaging with children and young people
Engaging with children and young people

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2.2 What happens when you listen to children?

Asking children what they think, but taking it no further will send a message that there is little real interest in their view.

(Mooney and Blackburn, 2002, quoted in Clark et al., 2003, p. 45)

A review by Alison Clark and colleagues of consultations with young children found that the impact of listening occurred at a number of levels: individual, institutional and strategic. These impacts are summarised in the following table:

Table 1 The impact of consultations with young children

Level Group Impact
Individual Children
  • Changes in everyday experiences, e.g. being allowed to do new things or changes to their environment
  • Raised self-esteem and confidence
  • Acquisition of new social or practical skills
Practitioners
  • Feeling enabled and encouraged, e.g. to continue promoting child participation
  • Feeling the benefits of working more democratically with children – e.g. not having to know all the answers
Parents
  • Increased awareness of child’s competencies
  • Raised expectations for child
Institutional
  • Opportunities to reflect on practice, e.g. rethinking relationships, routines and activities
  • Changes to policies
  • Changes to the environment
Strategic
  • Dissemination of local projects
  • Organisation of special consultations, e.g. bringing the views of young children to the attention of strategic planners
(Based on Clark et al., 2003)

A key finding of this review for police and anyone else working with children and young people was that any engagement should be undertaken carefully, sensitively and with genuine interest. If not, there is a real risk that the drive to listen to and consult might be perceived by young people as simply an exercise in surveillance rather than consultation.

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