Giving children and young people a voice in matters that concern them

By Liverpool YPAG,

Blog written by Lydia Brady

“Young people are the future, each of our voices are important. Individually we can make a difference but together we can make a change”.

Research is often carried out by adults despite children and young people often being the object of the research. Members of GenerationR Liverpool YPAG are passionate that young people can give insights that often adults could only imply, which helps the researchers understand how we feel about different aspects of their research, by offering ideas which we feel would improve their research.

So it was really exciting for members of our YPAG to be invited to join a Young People’s Reference Group organised through a partnership between the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Alder Hey Clinical Research Facility (led by Professor Michael Beresford and Jenny Preston), University of Liverpool (via the European Children’s Rights Unit in the School of Law & Social Justice led by Professor Helen Stalford) and Investing in Children (led by Liam Cairns). The project aims to explore how children and young people can be involved in research that focuses on a variety of topics including: health, education, welfare, the legal system including immigration, family law and criminal justice, social work, employment, access to play and youth services, and the effect of Brexit.

The refence group of young people involved in this project will challenge established patterns of thinking by identifying key research priorities and questions from a young person’s perspective; feedback on the work undertaken and advise on different aspects of the research, such as how to work with the young people during the research. Read the Terms of Reference that was agreed by the group at its first meeting in June.

This project is something unlike anything that we have done before as we are working with other young people from across the UK to look at different types of research on different topics other than health research.

During our first meeting Ruby (member of GenerationR Liverpool YPAG) and I were introduced to two other members from Investing in Children who will be part of this new project, Ali and Kieran. It is important that young people from different areas are able to express their views as this makes our opinions more representative of our generation as well as being thought provoking to hear from people that we have never worked with before.

During the first meeting we looked at two different pieces of research.

The first was helping a PHD student with her research into challenging the laws around underage sexual activity. There are conflicting views on how we can enable young people to express themselves (i.e. explore their sexuality) but also protect them. The research intends to find out many areas such as what young people understand about the current law, and who they go to for advice on sex and relationships. What became very apparent during our discussion is the differences in how sex education has been taught in schools, which is something that we thought was supposed to be standardised in the curriculum in addition to our different awareness of the current laws surrounding sexual activity.

Next, we looked at a research project into how young workers are treated in less economically developed countries, with companies that are meant to protect these young workers with fair working practices. This is very exciting as it is a project that will be taken overseas which is something I have not encountered before. It is nice to think that our opinions will help children and young people involved in research worldwide. The project intends to look at the workers recruitment, pay, hours, working conditions, etc. It will be interesting to see how these young workers experience differs from our experiences of work here due to our laws and regulations. This research will help us understand the experiences of initiatives to improve local working conditions and practices.

I look forward to our next meeting to carry on with this interesting project.