Child participation in the work of the helpline

It is clearly important to implement and embed the UNCRC in all aspects of the work of helplines (which are services designed for young people) and ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard.

Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is clear that children have the right to actively participate. 
 
"Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child."
 
Similarly, article 13 states that
 
"The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice."
 
It is clearly important to implement and embed the UNCRC in all aspects of the work of helplines (which are services designed for young people) and ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard.
 
Many efforts have been made to involve children and young people in the work of the safer internet centres and indeed, each Safer Internet Centre (SIC) has a youth panel and a youth coordinator. It can however be challenging to ensure that the youth involvement and participation is really representative of children and young people across society. 
 
With regards to helplines, a recent online meeting discussed this issue in some detail: how can helplines ensure meaningful and active participation from young people? Colleagues from the Swedish helpline BRIS shared their experiences in this area to date:
  • Organisations need to map out the various areas where they work with children and young people and then identify those which would be strengthened by child participation.
  • Ensure that everyone in the organisation has a shared understanding about what it means to be a child's rights organisation. 
  • Education is important – all members of the organisation have to buy into this and believe that they have a role to play. 
  • It is not enough for only the more confident and articulate to be heard. Those lacking in confidence must have a voice too and this requires more thought and planning. The Swedish helpline dedicated a lot of time and resource and put staff into schools to ensure wide representation from a range of young people of different abilities and backgrounds. 
  • It is important to be prepared for the unexpected – if young people don't like what you are proposing or suggest something different, then consider how this will be dealt with. 
  • If you involve young people in discussions and decision making, then be clear with them about what can happen as a result of their involvement. 
  • Accept that young people may not be able to commit to involvement on a long-term basis. 
It is important for everyone to recognise that the organisation will be better with child participation. It is not something which is just done as a token gesture or to look good – it actually teaches us things. This view takes time to establish and some perspective is needed – adults do not always know best! It is helpful to have a single point of contact within the organisation who is dealing with relationships and children's rights, this provides some continuity and helps to ensure that there is consistency in the quality of what is being done.
 
Find out more about the work of Insafe helplines – and find your local point of contact – via our interactive helpline map.
 

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