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Community Plan - Priority 7:

Getting involved and having a say – promoting the voice of children and young people

Children’s Trust

Aims

  • Promote the voice of children, young people and families using the Participation Promise, stating young people should:
    • Be listened to
    • Take responsibility
    • Be involved in making choices and decisions
    • Be involved in how money is spent on children's services in Merton.
  • Put young people at the heart of decisions affecting them through regular feedback. Ensure their views are heard and can help shape the improvement of services.
  • Recognise children and young people's voices as active contributors to services in the borough.
  • Improve access to volunteering and other community opportunities.
  • 'The Merton Pledge' will provide a future for two lone children in refugee camps and sanctuary for 50 unaccompanied child refugees through a humanitarian scheme.

Time for action

Children and young people want to be more involved in decisions affecting their lives. This allows them to become active participants in their communities and schools.


However, we know we need to do more to ensure children can play an active part in their communities. For instance, we know more than 67% would like to volunteer in their local community but don't always feel the opportunities are there for them.

What happens if we do nothing?

Merton could become a place where young people feel their views are not important and they feel excluded from active community involvement. Long term, young people grow up feeling detached from their communities and as adults feel reluctant to get involved in community activities.

Services for young people are not created with their input, which risks them not achieving their aims or failing to improve outcomes for our children and young people.

What would success mean?

Young people becoming engaged in decisions affecting them and involved in regular consultation and feedback so their voices are heard.

Children and young people recognised as active contributors, where they can have a real influence on decisions affecting their lives, and help shape the improvement of our services.

A clearer route for children and young people to take up volunteering and other community opportunities.

 

You told us

The 2019 Residents' Survey asked whether people felt involved in Merton Council's decision-making processes. It revealed:

  • 47% of the respondents said they are not at all/not very much involved by Merton Council when making decisions.
  • 26% of residents don't think Merton Council acts on the concerns of local residents very much. 


Similarly, some children and young people consulted don't know whether they feel supported to make decisions about their future (19% of respondents). They also said:

  • There is a lack of things for young people to do in the borough (30%).
  • 66% of them do not take part in any kind of activity or volunteering in Merton (according to the 2018 Children and Young People Survey).

We aim to

To promote the voice of children and young people we will:

  • Continue to seek the views of children and young people through School Councils and other forums.
  • Enable young people to have a voice in the Youth Crime and Prevention Executive Board and delivery of the youth justice service.
  • Encourage children and young people to take part in volunteering opportunities, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.
  • Recruit parent volunteers to deliver our Empowering Parents Empowering Communities (EPEC) programme, which trains and supervises parents to lead local groups.
  • Enable young people to have a say in activities we commission – for example through the Young Commissioners' Group.

What can I do?

If you are working directly with children and young people - You can help by:

  • Enabling children and young people to feed back on the services you have provided.
  • Ensuring children and young people are part of the planning, delivery and/or evaluation of services.

If you are delivering services to any Merton residents - You can help by:

If you are a child or young person - You can help by:

  • Getting involved with activities run in Merton, including
      • Fire Cadets
      • Duke of Edinburgh
      • Police Cadets
      • Scout and Guide groups
      • Woodcraft Folk
      • Endeavour Youth Club Sea Cadets.

Spotlight on...

Kids First Parent Forum

The parents and carers of children and young people with disabilities or special needs in Merton have their own voice to represent their views through the Kids First Parent Forum; a project of local charity, Merton Mencap.

With more than 600 members, it supports parents and carers of children and young people from birth up to age 25 with all disabilities and special needs by offering them a wealth of information and advice, plus support from other parents via their free workshops and events.

Melanie Pheasant, who lives in Morden, is a parent volunteer on the forum's steering group, which won the Merton Mencap Volunteer of the Year Award in 2019 for its work in representing the views of the Kids First membership in the borough.

A parent of two teenagers with complex needs, Melanie is one of 11 volunteers on the steering group which drives the business and planning of Kids First and works to get parents' voices heard at local policy-making levels regarding services that affect their children. It makes a real difference to the lives of many families around the borough.

She said: "I can't emphasise enough how beneficial it is for parents of children with special needs to support each other. The whole family benefits from the help Kids First gives to parents.

"As well as ensuring their voices get heard, Kids First empower parents with up to date information and knowledge via their twice-yearly newsletter, workshops and sessions with local service providers.

Being a parent of a child with special needs can be isolating and Kids First also helps families feel they are valued members of the community. It helps that we all get to know each other – and without Kids First this wouldn't have happened."

Melanie said she joined the steering group as a volunteer to give something back to the community that had supported her. "I can't over-estimate what a positive experience joining Kids First has been – it's been absolutely brilliant," she added.

Kids First is a forum run by Merton Mencap for parents and carers of children and young people who are aged 0 – 25 and live in Merton or go to school/college in the borough and have a disability or special educational need. It is free to join, and you can find out more on the Kids First website. You can also call 020 3963 0597 or email kf.admin@mertonmencap.org.uk.