To engage with children and young people, Caerphilly has established a Junior Forum (ages 7 to 11) and a Youth Forum (ages 11 to 25). Though not entirely a new concept, there are few examples of such forums in Wales. They provide an opportunity for children and young people to engage with and directly influence the Council's governance, planning and decision-making process. This engagement also means that children and young people's needs can be reflected in service delivery. It is also a way of contributing to the active citizenship of children and young people.
A methodology of consulting, involving and empowering has been key to this process. Each year the Youth Forum facilitates a conference for representatives to raise issues affecting young people, within the four themes of the LA Community Strategy. The Junior Forum also raises issues under the same themes. Throughout the year, both the Youth and Junior Forums hold regular meetings to discuss and seek to address the issues raised, amongst other work such as consultations, educational and developmental work etc.
Following consultation with groups of children and young people, the Forum is invited to address the Authority's Scrutiny Committees to provide input for planning for the following year.
One benefit of adopting this model is that children and young people's \/iews are reflected in the Council's priorities planning and strategic process. Young people evaluate the Forum's impact both on decision-making and on their own skills and learning developed through their involvement in the Forum. They complete impact assessment evaluations on issues raised, and ‘Distance Travelled’ evaluations to measure progress in the personal, social and educational skills.
This method can be effectively applied within other areas in Wales and other Authorities, as well as with other groups of customers.
Such engagement requires various events and workshops throughout the year facilitated by Forum staff (Youth Workers) and representatives from the CYPP, LA and partners. All planning and project management takes place through the Youth Service, within the Education directorate.
However, there are some potential limitations to this method of engagement. Firstly, the Authority must ensure there is sufficient interest from children and young persons to partake in a year-long process. It must also ensure that funding is available to facilitate the engagement mechanisms, and sufficient support and recognition from key decision-makers.
Name: Clare Ewings
Title/role: Youth Participation Manager / Youth Forum Co-ordinator
Organisation: Caerphilly County Borough Council
Telephone: 01443 863033/ 3292