Longford Westmeath Children and Young People’s Services Committee (LW CYPSC) Child and Youth Participation Project
Longford Westmeath Children and Young People’s Services Committee (LW CYPSC) Child and Youth Participation Project supporting young voices to improve local child and youth services.
The project in which we involved young people in decision-making
Longford Westmeath Children and Young People’s Services Committee (LW CYPSC) Child and Youth Participation Project. Children and Young People’s Services Committees (CYPSCs) are a key structure, established by Government, to plan and coordinate services for children and young people (0 – 24 years) in every county in Ireland. Each CYPSC brings together statutory, community and voluntary organisations at a local level to ensure effective interagency coordination and collaboration to achieve the best outcomes for children and young people.
The topic on which we were looking for their views
Longford Westmeath Children and Young People’s Services Committee (LW CYPSC) was seeking information on what was important to the children and young people of Longford and Westmeath and what they would like to see improved or changed in their local child and youth services
The reason we wanted their views
The Longford Westmeath CYPSC appreciate greatly the value of consulting with and including the voice and opinions of children and young people. One of the main priorities for the LW CYPSC is to create opportunities for children and young people to be involved in influencing, shaping, designing, and contributing to policy and the development of services and programmes within the two counties of Longford and Westmeath. The initial aim of the consultations was to include the voice of children and young people in the development of the LW CYPSC Children and Young People’s Plan thus in turn informing service development in Longford and Westmeath.
The decision-makers that facilitated, listened to and acted on their views
The statutory, community and voluntary agencies that are members of Longford Westmeath Children and Young People’s Services Committee (CYPSC). LW CYPSC is a CYPSC that incorporates children and young people’s services across two counties (Longford and Westmeath).
The age profile of the children and young people
3 – 24 years
Information about the children and young people (e.g. disability, ethnic background, social disadvantage, etc.)
Approximately 400 children and young people were consulted during this process. The participants for the workshops were from a range of settings including community crèches, primary schools, secondary schools, youth services/projects, sports organisations, and family resource centres. The consultation was open to all children and young people and included inputs from young people living in socio-disadvantaged areas, from travelling community, ethnic minorities, young people with disabilities and chronic health conditions, young people experiencing mental health issues, early school leavers, young people who identify as LGBTI, refugees and young people who have been bereaved.
How we gave space, voice, audience and influence to young people’s views
How we ensured a safe and inclusive space to hear the views of young people
Things we considered
What we did
The space or setting where we got their views (this may include online settings)
Because of the wide age range, two workshop styles were developed and there were two age categories.
The 3 – 12-year-old workshops consisted of visual consultations incorporating art, dialogue and self-expression. These workshops took place in their familiar settings of creche/ primary school and were completed by creative means to fully allow the children to express themselves over a number of workshops.
The 12 – 24-year-old workshops were facilitated fully by the young people themselves in an agenda-style format using the World Café style consultation. The youth workers were available on site but were not part of the consultations, so this provided a safe space for the young people to openly discuss and record their feedback.
How you identified the children and young people to be involved
Children and Young People engaging with the various CYPSC member organisations were invited to participate in the consultation.
How you involved those who were directly affected by the topic
As this was a general consultation based on the five national outcomes for children and young people from Better Outcome Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People the invitation to participate was fully inclusive of all young people.
How early in the process they were involved in decision-making
Longford and Westmeath Comhairle na nÓg (child and youth councils) were involved in designing the older age group workshops by developing a series of questions under each of the five national outcomes.
Using a World Café Style, the Comhairle members facilitated the workshops, and the questions guided the young people’s discussions on the strengths and gaps under each of the national outcome areas.
The Comhairle also assisted in deciding what icebreaker games would be used during the event and what was needed to make the space inviting and a place for the young people to feel safe.
The music chosen by the young people was played through speakers, the young people were MCs for the workshops and a photo booth was used at the initial consultations and subsequent events with the young people so as to bring an element of fun whilst also capturing the day.
How the process was inclusive and accessible
The LW CYPSC established a Child and Youth Participation multi-agency subgroup to oversee the active participation and consultation with children and young people.
The subgroup comprises of representation from the following agencies: Family Resource Centres (FRC) Longford/Westmeath, Tusla, Longford County Childcare Committee, Foróige, Barnardos, Youth Work Ireland Midlands, Longford and Westmeath Comhairle na Nóg, Westmeath Local Community Development Committee and Westmeath County Council, Longford Community Development Committee, Longford County Council and Longford Women’s Link (Domestic Violence Service).
The wide range of services directly involved in engaging with the young people and overseeing the project ensured a wide reach of young people were included and involved in the consultation.
How we gave young people a voice in decisions
Things we considered
What we did
How we informed young people about the topics on which we wanted their views
The workshops were based on the five national outcomes from Better Outcome Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People.
The consultation was developed using age-appropriate questions posed in the workshops.
We used the assistance of an Art Therapist for the younger age group and the youth facilitators were provided with guidance and training by the youth organisations prior to the workshops.
How we made sure they knew their views would be taken seriously
The consultations influenced the development of the CYPSC Children and Young People’s Plan.In addition, immediate changes were made by the local services based on the feedback of the consultations.
For example, some of the younger age group expressed how important pets and animals were to them, so the local Family Resource Centre arranged to have a pet farm visit the centre and invited the young people along to spend time with the animals.
Another example was that the young people said that they would like CYPSC Youth Forums established in Longford and Westmeath which the CYPSC promptly developed.
The young people knew their views were taken seriously because they saw real and tangible results from the feedback they provided during the consultations.
How we informed them about level of influence they could have on decision-making
The role of the young people and that of the CYPSC was explained with the assistance of the local youth services and organisations.
In recent years the young people themselves have made videos for other young people in the two counties to explain what the CYPSC and CYPSC youth forums are, this video was shown at youth events to inform other young people joining the youth forums what CYPSC is and the level of influence the young people have on decision – making by engaging with the CYPSC.
The methods we used to get their views
For the younger age group, two workshops took place with an Art Therapist, who introduced the concept of the CYPSC and the national outcomes in an age-appropriate manner and the wish to hear the children’s voices and opinions.
The first workshop explored questions about the children:
Who are you?
What are your interests?
What do you like best – play, hobbies, art etc.?
What do you like most about your community?
What do you not like about your community?
What would you change if you had a choice?
The second workshop explored the issues below:
Who is in your family
Where do you live? Why is it a good/not-so-good place to live in?
What are you good at? What are your dreams?
What would you like to do when you grow up?
Who or what will help you reach your dreams?
Do you feel you have a voice in your community and why is that helpful?
For the older young people’s consultations, the youth facilitators developed their own questions at the planning stage, which explored the positives of their home county and what needed to change or improve.
Some of the questions were as follows:
What makes Co. Longford/Westmeath a good place for young people to live and grow up in?
What does not make Co. Longford/Westmeath a good place for young people to live and grow up in?
What services or facilities would you put into Co. Longford/Westmeath to make it a better place for young people to live and grow up in?
What can be put in place in Co. Longford/ Westmeath to ensure that the five national outcomes for children and young people can be achieved?
Stars were given to the young people to prioritize their identified issues.
How we made sure they could identify topics they wanted to discuss
The methodologies outlined above ensured that children and young people had opportunities to raise and discuss issues and concerns that mattered to them.
Please describe the topics and issues they raised
A full report containing all of the Information and Topics raised is available HERE
Some examples of topics/ issues raised include:
3 – 12 Years:
Family, grandparents, siblings
12 – 24 years:
Increase in the number of youth activities that will enhance the health of young people
Increase in the number of youth mental health services.
Increase and improve education relating to healthy eating, nutrition, cooking and diet.
Increase the opportunities for young people to engage in life skills and volunteering programmes
Increase Garda’s presence on streets and give Gardaí more power.
A safe community and environment for young people to grow.
Increase focus on teaching young people practical skills which are transferrable to careers including money management.
Increase the availability of information for children and young people on services.
Increase opportunities for children and young people to participate and be represented on relevant committees.
Increase education and awareness of different cultures.
How we made sure that there was an audience (decision-makers) for young people’s views
Things we considered
What we did
How we developed a report or record of the young people’s view
An Art Therapist compiled a report based on the consultations and artworks completed by the children.
The information gathered at the World Café style workshops was collated and a report containing the information from all workshops was collated and is available here.
In addition to the written report, a videographer visited a number of the workshops (both the younger and older age groups) and compiled a video for the CYPSC capturing how the consultation took place and the outcomes. This video can be viewed here.
How we checked back with them that their views were accurately represented
Before the report was finalised, the draft report was shared with the older age group 12 – 24-year-olds to ensure that the information captured reflected the information provided in the workshops.
The video also provided a truly accurate “voice” of the children and was viewed by the CYPSC.
How we involved the decision-makers who are responsible for influencing change (other than yourself)
From the very beginning, this project was a collaboration in the truest sense, with input from the CYPSC and multiple agencies throughout every phase and stage of the participation project.
At what point we involved decision makers other than yourself in the process
This participation project was initiated at a CYPSC meeting during which we decided that we wanted to get the views of children and young people to inform the children and young people’s plan. The CYPSC is comprised of the main statutory, community and voluntary service providers and Senior Managers of Child, Youth and Family Services in Longford and Westmeath.
How we and other decision-makers showed our commitment to listening to, and acting on young people’s views
During the initial consultation process, the CYPSC Coordinator attended workshops. She informed the young people how important and valued their opinions are by the LW CYPSC, and how the CYPSC will include their input in the future planning of services and projects in Longford and Westmeath.
Initially, this consultation was planned to be a once–off consultation to provide a voice and input from children and young people into the CYPSC three-year strategic plan. It became apparent during the consultations that the children and young people were keen to continue working with the CYPSC and youth forums were established.
At a follow-up consultation event, Shout Out 4 Youth 2018, the young people who participated in the 2017 consultations were invited to meet with CYPSC members.
The CYPSC Chairperson addressed the young people at this follow-up event, thanking them for their contributions and highlighting some of the changes that had already begun to take place because of their participation in the 2017 consultation.
An initiative called “Our Voice Our Wellbeing” was conducted in the summer of 2021 and the CYPSC Youth Forums participated.
The actions taken by the CYPSC in the years since the initial consultations (establishment of the CYPSC youth Forums, further multiple youth events and CYPSC consultations with children and young people, and changes within local services) have shown the children and young people that the service providers have heard what they have said and that the children and young people are in fact bringing about change and enhancing youth services.
How we supported young people to play a role in communicating their own views to decision-makers
LW CYPSC supported the children and young people to play a role in communicating their own views to decision-makers by compiling the information gathered by the young people into a report which was reviewed by the CYPSC and used to inform the development of the LW CYPSC Children and Young People’s Plan.
We also had a videographer present at all of the workshops (younger and older age groups), and a short video was put together highlighting both the process but also capturing some of the main key points.
This video was shown at the CYPSC meeting and assisted the children in communicating their views to the CYPSC members.
At the follow-up event in 2018, the young people were invited to speak at this event, where CYPSC members were also present.
The young people spoke about their experiences of the consultations and about the changes they would like to see in their local child and youth services.
Finally, through the establishment of the LW CYPSC Youth Forums (which are hosted by CYPSC member organisations).
How young people were given updates at key points in the development of the plan
Things we considered
What we did
How we informed young people about the topics on which we wanted their views
Following the initial consultations, a number of further events were organised to bring children and young people together with CYPSC members, where continued planning and consultations have taken place.
The formation of the CYPSC Youth Forums in Longford and Westmeath (hosted by local services) also provides young people with regular updates on the work of the CYPSC.
How their views were acted on by the appropriate decision-makers (what happened to their views)
The views greatly shaped and informed the development of the CYPSC three-year Children and Young People’s Plan and the development of numerous actions under the Five National Outcomes.
Whether we continually checked back with children and young people about the ways you used their views with decision-makers (if possible or appropriate)
The children and young people were initially kept updated by the local services and youth groups in which engage.
Once the CYPSC Youth Forums were established, the young people were updated at forum meetings.
The CYPSC Child and Youth Participation Subgroup oversaw the Forums and acted as a direct link with the Forums.
How they were given full and age-appropriate feedback explaining how their views were used (or not) and the reasons for decisions taken
Verbal and written age-appropriate feedback was provided to children and young people by the services that they were engaged with prior to the consultation and through the CYPSC Youth Forums.
How we enabled them to evaluate the process throughout
The young people have maintained a high level of active participation with the CYPSC since the initial consultation.
The CYPSC has continually evaluated how we consult with the forums and continue to work towards enhancing the youth forums further and their work with the CYPSC going forward.
What young people said in the evaluation
The LW CYPSC Child and Youth Participation project was evaluated by the Investing In Children Award.
In the evaluation, the young people spoke about how they were able to act as peer facilitators and discuss the outcomes with lots of children and young people.
One young person said: “It worked really well with young people leading on the discussion about things as young people felt more comfortable talking to other young people and more could be done”.
They said that children and young people could speak openly with other peers and felt supported by the CYPSC and its partners to achieve this.
What changes were made because of children/young people giving their views?
The biggest change as a direct result of this project has been the establishment of CYPSC Youth Forums across Longford and Westmeath and the continued engagement between the LW CYPSC with children and young people. The young people have a direct input into the local child and youth services in Longford Westmeath and an input into LW CYPSC programmes e.g. assisted in the development of the ‘Our Voice Our Wellbeing’ project which was rolled out in the Summer of 2021 across the five CYPSC Youth Forums with over 70 young people in attendance.
Topics covered included:
#MindYour Mind – Self Care
#MindYour Selfie – Internet Safety
#MindYour Mate – First Aid
#MindYour Bouncebility – Responses/Resilience
#MindYour Body – Sexual health/consent
#MindYour Future – Life skills, and actions now affecting future self.
#MindYour – Evaluation and becoming Youth Health Ambassadors in the local community
The key learning for your organisation from the process and outcome (end result) of involving children and young people in our work
The LW CYPSC has learned first-hand the true value of consulting with children and young people.
The CYPSC is currently conducting a post-Covid Consultation, the feedback of which will assist the LW CYPSC Youth Forums to determine their agenda for the remainder of 2022 to address key challenges that have been presented for the young people in Longford and Westmeath.
It is envisaged that the CYPSC Youth Forums will then present the findings and their projects to the CYPSC in the coming months.
The CYPSC Youth Forums are an integral part of the LW CYPSC structure that will continue to inform and enhance the work of the CYPSC within Child, Youth and Family Services across Longford and Westmeath.
Looking back, how did the final outcome compare with our initial assumptions and those of other decision-makers involved in the process?
This “Child and Youth Participation Project” was initially a once–off consultation with multiple groups of children and young people across the two counties so as to inform the development of the CYPSC plan. However, it quickly became apparent to the CYPSC that there is true value in continuous consultation and working alongside the young people accessing services so as to continue to enhance service provision in Longford and Westmeath.
What worked well?
The key to the success of this initiative was the formation of the Child and Youth Participation CYPSC Subgroup and how well the subgroup collaboratively worked together from the beginning, the members of which all individually and collectively have a true vision of the importance and value of consulting with and working alongside children and young people.
If we were doing it again, is there anything we would do differently?
This project/ initiative has been a journey, both for the CYPSC, the participation subgroup and for the young people. Many challenges have arisen along the way, and this journey has been slow at times. However, working together has brought about the formation of CYPSC youth forums and an excellent foundation of youth participatory practice across child, youth and family services in Longford and Westmeath. We look forward to the continued work and development of LW CYPSC Youth Forums into the future.
For ease of accessing videos/ journey of this initiative, please find below the links to the various videos most of which were referred to above: