Josh Harsant, Head of Voice & Influence at Barnardo’s UK, delivered a presentation that had been circulated to the Committee prior to the meeting, on The Voice & Influence of Children & Young People. Key highlights from the discussion included:
· Often children are labelled pre-emptively, and Josh Harsant encouraged the Committee to instead consider the points below when approaching the subject of voice and influence of children and young people: What is the problem you’re trying to solve? Who are the right people to help you understand and address the problem? What are the values and ways of working that bind everyone together? Who has power to act and who has power to inform and influence?
· The Committee were also encouraged to consider how children’s rights can be put front and centre, what mechanisms there are for increasing the voice and influence of children and young people, and where the voice and influence of children and young people in the context of decision making. An example highlighted was a suggestion given to other local authorities to include a sub-section of the implications section of corporate reports for this.
· Josh Harsant made the point to the Committee that children and young people will identify differently depending on the environment they were in, and that they were often not talked of outside of the statutory framework. Labels were not a good starting point when approaching the subject of voice and influence and the Committee should look at them as a young resident with lived experience and consider whether applying a label would make any significant difference when applying it.
· Josh Harsant cited UNICEF’s Child Friendly Programme which operated in schools in two London boroughs, one of which was Redbridge, who are involving children and young people in planning matters for the first time. In response, it was noted that Islington had also involved young people on planning matters in the past, citing the Holloway Prison redevelopment as one example.
Tania Townsend, Head of Strategic Programmes and Strategy delivered the second presentation to the Committee on Voice and Influence of young people and parents/carers, which had also been circulated to Committee members prior to the meeting. Highlights of the discussion included.
· All children and young people have the right for their voice to be heard.
· The importance of moving from participation to co-production in terms of the services used by decisions affecting and decisions regarding children and families.
· That the approach in Islington was centred on shifting the focus to outcome-focused involvement and acknowledging that it was important that parents and carers got as much out of this process as well.
· Examples were given of what Islington currently had in place concerning the voice and influence of children and young people in Islington.
· It was important that learning and best practice was embedded so that it can be retained long-term and not lost to officer turnover / electoral lifecycles.
In response to a question from the Committee stating that an update had not been provided since 2020 on implementing the recommendations the Fair Futures commission, the Head of Strategic Programmes and Strategy told the Committee that when the report of that commission was published, one of the key elements missing from the report was climate change and how young people wanted the Council and the system at large to address it; to that end, the Head of Strategic Programmes and Strategy proposed that an update could be presented to a future meeting. It may be appropriate to engage with young people on their latest priorities and for this to be reflected in the report. The Chair confirmed that they were for happy for this to be reflected on in the work programme next year.
In response to question from the Committee that there had not been a question put forward to a Council meeting from the youth councillors since 10th December 2020 and that they should be reinvited to full Council, the Director of Children’s Services, Jon Abbey, stated that a better approach would be to seek the Youth Council’s view on how to proceed. Guest speaker, Josh Harsant, welcomed this approach.
The Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, Councillor Ngongo, informed the committee that both she and the Director of Children’s Services had met with youth councillors the previous week and that the Youth Council were preparing a presentation for herself and the Director of Children’s Services, and Councillor Ngongo will invite members of the scrutiny committee to attend this presentation also.
Jon Abbey to consult with the Youth Council on how to proceed with Council questions.