Opportunities for children and young people to participate in decisions and issues that affect them have increased significantly. However, this is not the case for disabled children and young people, particularly those with complex needs and communication impairments, despite them being disproportionate users of support services in health, social care and education settings.
Disabled children and young people have the same rights as non-disabled children and young people to participate in decisions and issues that affect them. This is outlined in both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Despite this, disabled children and young people continue to face significant barriers and challenges to participation.
In order to effectively embed disabled children’s participation, it needs to be fully accessible and inclusive. The social model of disability provides a framework for inclusive participation; by focusing on changing attitudes and removing or minimising barriers that prevent disabled children accessing the same opportunities as other children and young people.
The social model of disability defines disability as arising from the interaction between someone with an impairment and the barriers that exist in the environment; these being physical, attitudinal and the policies, practices and procedures of organisations.
Barriers and challenges to disabled children and young people’s participation sit within three broad areas: training, support and resources; knowledge, understanding and attitudes; process, systems and structures. Identifying and recognising the barriers and challenges provides a good basis for planning to further disabled children’s participation.
Whilst participation of disabled children and young people is not yet embedded, clear examples of their involvement in decisions at individual, service and strategic levels have been identified; and a number of tools to support disabled children and young people’s participation are available. These include mechanisms for making complaint procedures accessible to disabled children, practical toolkits such as communication passports, practice guidance, training materials and multi-media approaches.
The participation of disabled children and young people should be an ongoing and flexible process, not an end in itself. Settings should routinely and actively seek disabled children’s views about individual, service and strategic level decisions as well as local and national issues.
By building this into participation work undertaken with all children and young people, disabled children’s voices are equally represented and will meaningfully influence the agenda rather than just be ‘added on.’ The question is not whether disabled children and young people can participate, but rather how we as professionals ensure that it happens.
Making Ourselves Heard: Exploring disabled children's participation. Based on a series of 8 seminars with local authorities, this book sets out the current policy context for disabled children and young people's participation, outlines the barriers and challenges to effective participation and highlights what is working well.
How to support disabled and non-disabled children and young people to work together in inclusive groups
This guide will help workers who want to ensure that the groups they are working with are inclusive by providing support and advice.
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Top Tips for Participation. Developed in partnership with disabled young people, this poster highlights, in young people’s own words, what adults can do to better involve them in decisions.
Young campaigners guide. A guide for disabled young people explaining what is campaigning and how to campaign in your local area.
Disabled Children’s manifesto for change. The ‘Disabled children’s manifesto for change’ is a booklet and film that sets out what disabled children and young people want the government to do to make life better.
Going places! This guide sets out what disabled children and young people think about the play and leisure opportunities available to them and what needs to change to improve them.
If I could change one thing…Children, young people and their parents were asked ‘If you were Prime Minister for the day, and could change one thing, what would it be?'. Their answers are set out in a number of booklets.
CDC Inclusion policy. This policy out a policy and a set of principles from the Council for Disabled Children which are crucial to the development of inclusion.
Inclusion posters. This is a series of A3 posters showcasing each of the six principles of the Inclusion Policy.
Pushing for Change. This report from the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) looks at some of the ways different organisations are including young disabled people and encouraging their leadership and includes the voices and experiences of young disabled people on leadership matters.
Two way street. This is a training video and handbook from Triangle about communicating with disabled children and young people. The video is aimed at all professionals whose role includes communicating with children, it was developed in consultation with disabled children and young people.
Our play - our choice. This good practice briefing outlines the findings of a play consultation carried out by KIDS with disabled children, and includes signposts to useful organisations and resources on participation and inclusion
Communication passports. Personal Communication Passports are a practical and person-centred way of supporting children, young people and adults who do not use speech to communicate.
Include Me Too. Championing the rights of disabled children and young people, this website supports the National Charter of Rights for Disabled Children and Young People.
Listening to young disabled children. A series of six leaflets that provides a guide to finding out more information to help practitioners design ways of listening to children and to each other.
See Me, Hear Me. A guide to using the UN Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities to promote the rights of children. The first book to look at how two UN conventions can be used to support disabled children.
How to involve children and young people with communication impairments in decision-making
This guide provides information and ideas about how you can enable children and young people with communication impairments to be involved in decision-making.
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