“Seen, Heard, Included”: Putting the voices of disabled children and young people at the heart of the development of a National Transitions to Adulthood Strategy
‘Transitions from school can be scary; change is a big thing to navigate, and knowing what it will entail is hard’
(Young Person contributing to the development of the National Transitions Strategy)
One policy team in Scottish Government that has demonstrated a strong commitment to listening to young people’s voice is the Supporting Disabled Children and Young People’s Unit. The team are working on developing and delivering a National Transitions to Adulthood Strategy; a plan to improve disabled young people’s experiences as they move into young adult life. This is their story so far….
The Engagement Process
The Unit Head attended The Right Way training, run by the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP). This is a programme designed by young people to give officials and decision-makers the tools and knowledge they need to meaningfully engage with young people in their work.
‘I don’t want to be a young person sitting at home and having politicians decide based on what they believe I want or need. We want to tell them what we want, and they must promise to act on it and be accountable for it.’
(Young Person from SYP)
The policy team began their engagement journey by commissioning and subsequently publishing a literature review of existing Scottish, UK and International evidence on disabled young people’s experiences of their transition to young adult life. The literature review established a baseline of knowledge which was an important step as the team were committed to not asking disabled young people and their families questions that had already been answered. The team then set about engaging with young people, families, and practitioners, to find out what needs to change to improve planning and support for disabled young people in the transition to adulthood.
The team recognised careful consideration should be given to the unique support needs of disabled young people and their families, in order for approaches to be as meaningful and inclusive as possible. Therefore, they provided funding to a sub-group of the Disabled Children and Young People’s Advisory Group to identify and develop tools and methodology to support the meaningful engagement and participation of disabled children and young people whose needs are complex and whose voices are rarely heard, and their families. They framed the engagement with young people and their families within the contexts of effective planning and support, to capture what matters to them in order to contribute to the design and development of the National Care Service and the National Transitions to Adulthood Strategy. Find more information on this work, the resources and the learning report “Seen Heard Included” on the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland website.
The team also worked with three groups of disabled young people to understand their experiences and hopes for the future, in order to develop a draft vision statement for the strategy. They also directly engaged with Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament in the lead up to their Autumn sitting, in order to reach more young people and to gather feedback on the Statement of Intent and on the participatory approach of the policy team. The feedback from young people was positive!
The policy team are passionate about ensuring engagement with children and young people lies at the heart of the development of this policy, and are committed to involving more disabled young people, parent carers and others with a role in transitions in ways that are right for them, as the strategy continues to develop. They have reflected that what has worked well in their work to date has been:
- reviewing existing evidence before beginning engagement;
- adopting a person-centred, whole family approach built on existing, trusting relationships;
- taking the necessary time and
- providing feedback to those who contributed to the engagement.
For more information on the training and tools which Scottish Youth Parliament offer, visit their hub at SYP and The Right Way.
Read more blogs on children’s rights and participation.